Review published on March 1, 2018.
One call lasting 29 seconds, that’s all it took. A Faustian pact – as soon as she terminates the connection Sarah realises she has made a deal with the devil. Will she be able to live with the consequences? Sarah has no idea how complicated life is about to get.
I have to admit this is not the kind of novel that I would usually be attracted to (domestic/psychological), but I really enjoyed 29 Seconds, it’s sassy, straightforward, deliciously readable and genuinely engaging. Once I opened the book to the first page I was intrigued by the three conditions set out for Sarah Haywood. She has 72 hours to make up her mind, if she says no the offer is off the table, if she says yes there is no turning back.
29 Seconds is engrossing, I flew through it and it couldn’t be more topical in the light of #MeToo. You have a villain you can hate, a villain who’s more than a little bit scary, and Sarah, an intelligent, hard-working mother of two pushed beyond her limits to the point where she is forced to fight back, more than once.
It all begins on a cold November night, Sarah Haywood and her colleagues are standing outside a restaurant waiting for taxis. The women have a set of rules about avoiding the lecherous attentions of department head, Professor Alan Lovelock. When the first taxi arrives and Sarah gets in and Lovelock follows, he orders the taxi back to their hotel before the others can join them. A handful when he’s sober, drunk Lovelock is a danger to the women around him, a nasty pervert. Sarah manages to get away at the hotel lifts but she needs to get a promotion to a permanent position and that hangs on Lovelock’s recommendation. With a mortgage and a family she can’t afford to tell her boss what she really thinks of him. Her friend Laura suggests confronting him but Sarah thinks she can control the situation if she can just get the job sorted. Lovelock is a serial offender, a former employee, Gillian, turns up at the Lovelock Foundation annual charity gala and exposes Lovelock but no one is listening. Lovelock brings in money and prestige for the university. However, Lovelock makes sure Sarah doesn’t get the job and there are so few places for an expert on Marlowe, so what can she do?
Sarah is angry, so when a black Mercedes blocks her route she is ready for trouble. The car suddenly knocks a man to the ground and a thug in a black leather jacket tries to kidnap the girl the man is with. Sarah intervenes to protect the girl’s escape. When she reports the incident to the police no one knows anything of an injured bodyguard or of a missing girl. DC Hansworth believes her but…. Sarah soon starts seeing a scarred man following her. Two men kidnap her and she meets Volkov, also known as Volshebnik, the magician, it was his daughter Aleksandra that Sarah saved. His boy was killed four years before by kidnappers. Volkov owes Sarah a favour, he offers her a bargain if she says nothing about their meeting. A Faustian pact in the best traditions of her hero, Kit Marlowe.
Logan has hit on a tone for the novel that makes you believe in the dangerous choices Sarah makes, as a reader you almost feel dirty when Lovelock behaves so appallingly, you can understand how an ordinary intelligent woman could make a decision, an irreversible decision, to jump into the void.
29 Seconds is thought provoking and contemporary, a thriller for now. It’s tightly plotted but also character driven and never lets up on the pace. There are a couple of neat switches in the plot that keep you on your toes and a satisfying, if dark, denouement. A psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. Great fun.
Paul Burke 4/5
29 Seconds by T.M. Logan
Zaffre 9781785770807 pbk Mar 2018
AUDIO: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton