The Prison Ship, by Peter Tonkin

Richard Marriner is some kind of ex-navy type who now runs a company that has a business building and/or refitting ships. He and his daughter happen to be visiting some sort of public event when a terrorist attack take place and they narrowly avoid being killed. A few months later, Marriner's company is asked to take on some work relating to a Home Office project to create prison ships that will be used to house terrorist suspects. But perhaps the first attack was just a prelude to something more serious, in which case perhaps there might be disadvantages to sticking a load of jihadists in a boat on the Thames just as the London Olympics are getting underway?

Well it sounds like there's material for a reasonable story there. But the book was rather weak. If it hadn't been obviously set in 2012 (with the London Olympics playing a central part of the story, and mentions of iPhones) I think I'd have dated it as coming from the 60s. This felt like thriller fiction for someone who likes to stay a safe distance from the action and likes to hear how dangerous and exciting the job is without getting too distracted by realistic detail. It actually reminded me a bit of My Gal Sunday, because Richard and his wife both end up getting involved in sorting out the terrorist plot and there's a similar Hart-to-Hart feel to things.

The reader (Michael Tudor Barnes) did not do this book any favours. His voice sounds good: he has a rather rich sounding RP accent. But he had some quirky ways of pronouncing things which added to the sense that this story was written by someone might have read about stuff but didn't actually know what he was talking about. For example we had references to music by the "Issley Brothers", times measured in "narno seconds", and "star wars" rather than "star wars". He was also not very good at doing voices for other people: all the women sounded the same, and the policeman were all the same "gorblimey" character.

And even if the author knows how to pronounce these things properly, he made similar mistakes: for example one of the characters is given a present of a "prayer watch" which plays an alarm at set times through the day to remind the wearer of the call to prayer. But the (English) recipient of the watch has to rely on the position of the watch hands to tell the time, because she can't read the numbers, which are "arabic numerals".

There seemed to be a fair amount of plot, but a lost concentration several times so some of it passed me by. But it wasn't at all gripping, or particularly exciting. I think there are a few more "ship" books by Tonkin but I won't bother with them.

Completed : 22-Feb-2012 (audiobook)

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