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Book Review: Renegades by Shaun Hutson

“A novel so gritty, it’ll make your gums bleed!”

Renegades_225x225-75Shaun Hutson’s classic ‘creature feature’ Slugs was the start of an illustrious career in 1982. The novel not only spawned a sequel, Breeding Ground, but also a film adaptation. Since then, Shaun Hutson has been the bestselling author of more than twenty horror and dark urban thrillers, gaining him the title ‘The Godfather of Gore’.

Renegades is the story of terrorism and a stained glass window. Whilst bridges are built between the Irish Republican Army and British forces, a small group of guerrilla IRA men go out of their way to make sure that peace is never reached; that years of bloodshed and animosity is never forgotten. The renegade soldiers make it look as though peace is the last thing the IRA want, by implementing assassinations and bombings.

As the war against terrorism rages on 1500km away in Britain, a historian in Brittany, France, discovers a hidden stained glass window in an abandoned church. The church was once used by Gilles De Rais, a 15th  century Breton Knight famously known for his conviction for slaying children.

Hutson’s writing is scintillating. His intense descriptions of realistic violence and characters take you to the very heart of the action in Dublin and France. The opening chapters are as explosive as they are blood-soaked, leaving you breathless but wanting more. The concentrated plot and grit ensure that Renegades doesn’t lose its steam, and sets up for a superb ending.

The bullet from the MP5 hit the camera dead centre, blasting through the lens, piercing the single eye, blowing the camera apart before it thundered into Newton’s temple, shattering the frontal bone. The photographer felt a second of agonizing pain, as if he’d been hit with a burning hammer, then the bullet tore through his skull, erupting from the back, carrying a confetti of brain and pulverized bone with it.

Super cop Sean Doyle, the protagonist, works in the Counter Terrorist Unit, London. We first meet Doyle at a stakeout, as he prepares to swoop on a house filled with terrorists. When one of the perpetrators makes a run for it, Doyle gives chase, shooting the unarmed man dead. His brutal Bulldog ways are unappreciated by the Flying Squad, but encouraged by his immediate superior, Donaldson.

Certain procedures,’ he said, scornfully. ‘You mean, do it by the rules? Well, the rules are different with men like Sheehan. You should know that. Doyle plays by their rules…’ ‘That’s one of the things that makes him perfect for the job. He understands their mentality.’ Doyle had just pushed Sheehan up against the wall. He now shoved the gun under his chin.

When Sheehan finally cracks, the man spills his guts, telling Doyle his leader’s name, Maguire; a vicious, ex-IRA man. Behind Maguire and his team of renegades is Callahan – a tough, ex-gun-running Londoner with cash to burn. The thrill-seeking millionaire, who also has his eye on the mysterious glass window in Brittany, stands to lose a great deal if the rift between the Brits and IRA is resolved. Donaldson, on the other hand, may be seen as supportive of Doyle and his Dirty Harry ways. He has an alternative motive in motion which stands to see Doyle and his new partner, Georgie, dead, when he sends them to Ireland to see if they can track down the rest of the renegade outfit.

Renegades is a novel so gritty, it’ll make your gums bleed. The story tends to lean towards reality, but blends with paranormal activity and possession. It is not without dark humour and empathy,  which mixes well with the in-your-face-violence and carnage. Hutson holds nothing back in this mid-nineties classic, which is set around the real ceasefire and amity talks between the British and IRA. It’s a possession-meets-terrorism tale which doesn’t let up until the stark, brutal end – an absorbing, powerful and gut-crunching read.

DAVID OWAIN HUGHES

Publisher: Caffeine Nights Publishing
Paperback: (367pp)
Release Date: 7 October 2013

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