"Die Every Day" is the first of author Gordon Bickerstaff’s Lambeth Group Thrillers that we have seen and it left this reader wanting to seek out others in the series. It is a great book. Filled with a large cast of characters and a number of distinct but clearly linked storylines, it takes a few chapters to ease yourself in and get to know the key players. That said, once you get to grips with who’s who and start to make connections between significant individuals and the groups they belong to, you quickly get swept along with the pace and the drama.
The Lambeth Group, key to the main storyline, is a policy strategy group charged with ensuring that science and technology do not gallop out of control to the extent that they begin to pose a threat to business and to human life. Through the formulation of a covert doomwatch policing strategy the aim is to protect the nation from criminal, unethical and unprincipled scientists. Sir Christopher Aden-Brown is Group Leader. He provides liaison between the Home Office and a group of 26 university vice chancellors in the UK and Commonwealth. Gavin Shawlens is a bioscience investigator undertaking clandestine work on behalf of the group. Zoe Tampsin is a section leader for the Security Service MI5 and an ex-army captain with a reputation as a powerful, determined and completely ruthless player.
When a woman is murdered in Glasgow hotel, a man is caught at the scene and confesses. It seems like an open and shut case, but someone, somewhere isn't quite so sure and Tampsin is brought in to investigate. If the accused seeks his day in court rather than pleading guilty, things are going to turn ugly and the truth will out, the government will fall and there will be international outrage. Tampsin must try and convince the man to enter a guilty plea. But doing that is the least of her worries, when her attempts even to get close to him bring her up against other military, gangland and governmental factions, whose aims seem to be at odds with her own and who seem hell bent on eliminating all those who stand in their way.
Tampsin’s role widens as she tries to work out who is controlling whom, whilst at the same time ensuring the safety of the accused. Bickerstaff creates a strong character in Tampsin and we learn enough about her background to identify her strengths, but also her potential weaknesses. Tampsin enlists the help of Toni Bornadetti, a friend and colleague from her army days and sets about trying to unravel the complexities surrounding the murder and separate the good people from the bad.
"Die Every Day" contains more than its fair share of twists and turns and, as the death toll rises, it becomes less and less clear who are the hunters and who are the hunted. Add in corruption at senior police level and a complex investigation into a Glasgow drug and people trafficking racket and you have all the elements for a great read. As the story progresses the impulse to keep turning the page, to find out more about the complex interactions between the individual players and to unravel the plot is compulsive. The ending does not disappoint and, as I said at the beginning, it has left this reader wanting more.