Source: Review copy.
Publication: 13 December 2019 from Endeavour Media
Dragged half dead from a river, Ben Bracken, fugitive ex-soldier, is in a bad way.
But, too valuable to discard and too dangerous to set free, an old friend offers him a choice: abandon his identity and become a desk-bound advisor to the National Crime Agency, or go back to the prison he broke out of – a place where he is extremely unpopular.
Bracken is forced to accept – and he’s becoming a different man.
But all this changes when, days before Christmas, an undercover narcotics officer is murdered in horrific circumstances, and only Bracken has the inside track on the key suspect. Throwing himself into the fray, Bracken finds himself in a very present-day ideological conflict, uncovering a plot which has huge implications for both Manchester’s political, socio-economic landscape, and the nation at large – coming to an explosive conclusion amidst the twinkling fairy lights and frost-tipped boughs of Christmas Eve…
I’m the unlikeliest of readers for this series. All action military men are not my usual fare and yet, here I am on my 3rd Ben Bracken novel and the 4th in the series. There’s something about Bracken that is compelling; whether it’s his belief in his ideals, or his need to make connections with others I don’t know, but he is a fascinating character.
In Till Morning is Nigh, Parker has tapped directly into contemporary issues and that makes this book crackle with energy and a barely suppressed rage. Bracken is on the inside this time, working for a crack intelligence unit in Manchester and using a new identity. He and his girlfriend have a new baby to add to her own 2 children and Bracken is becoming domesticated.
The intention is that Bracken will lend his expertise to the Police force and the National Crime Agency, but that his job is strictly behind the scenes. But that’s not Bracken and when it emerges that there’s a brutal new organised crime team in town, it’s not long before he’s out there breaking a few heads and getting himself into the thick of things.
What Bracken has got himself into the middle of is an all too likely consequence of what’s going on in England right now. The emergence of the far right post Brexit is linked with the potential for marrying organised criminal activity with a political movement, and Parker shows us the horrifying consequences that could bring.
What starts with the brutal murder of an undercover police officer leads to a conspiracy that strikes at the heart of our democracy.
I found Parker’s storyline plotting plausible and therefore all the more worrying (though I could not help feeling that in writing this story he should have used England a lot more often than Britain – the gulf between our two countries has never been wider).
Parker’s writing style of short and snappy chapters works very well in this context. I really liked that this time Bracken has allies and isn’t quite so much of a rogue operator. Seeing him working with colleagues and becoming a real family man makes him a more rounded individual, though no less likely to take outrageous chances.
Verdict: This is the best Bracken book yet. Topical, and frightening, it crackles with a scary energy and shows us some of the consequences of allowing the rise of fascism again. The organised crime elements of the book are well done and a part of the premise – which relates to the decriminalisation of Class A drugs – feels authentic as it’s a debate we really need to have. This Bracken book is a cracker.
Robert Parker is a married father of three, who lives in a village near Manchester, UK. The author of the Ben Bracken books A Wanted Man, Morte Point, The Penny Black and the standalone post-Brexit country-noir Crook’s Hollow, he enjoys a rural life on an old pig farm (now minus pigs), writing horrible things between school runs.
He writes full time, as well as organising and attending various author events across the UK – while boxing regularly for charity. Passionate about inspiring a love of the written word in young people, he spends a lot of time in schools across the North West, encouraging literacy, story-telling, creative-writing and how good old fashioned hard work tends to help good things happen.