Written by Douglas Jackson — Glen Savage isn’t any ordinary man. For one, he’s a war hero. A veteran of the Falklands War, he’s trained in how to kill and how to survive. He’s come through some harrowing events that now haunt his civilian life. But he’s more than that, he’s unique. For Savage was born with a gift, one he still struggles to live with, even as he’s come to understand it. He’s a psychic, able to reach the dead. Savage has always tried to use his gift for good and made a living of sorts from it after leaving the army and moving back to Scotland. He’s the man the police turn to when all other avenues to find murderers have failed. But it’s a last resort. Savage has many sceptics, and it seems only his ill wife believes in him any more.
When an Asian teenager called Gurya Ali vanishes, her father Assad turns to Savage. Assad is a self-made man of considerable means and he’s prepared to pay anything to get his girl back. The police won’t help, believing she’s run away. Savage tends to agree, but he needs the money. His wife has MS and dealing with the disease has scoured their bank account so he takes the case. He quickly finds that Assad is not quite all he seems. He had previously lined Gurya up for an arranged marriage, which she rebelled against.
Then the body of a teenage boy turns up. It seems unconnected, but Savage thinks there’s more to the case than meets the eye. He begins to dig and makes a link to previous deaths. Tiny lead soldiers have been left behind at each crime scene and the killer has taken a trophy from each body, a trophy that has a significant meaning. But he can’t go to the police, who remain sceptical of Savage and his powers. So he goes it alone, using all of his skills to track down the murderer and save Gurya.
Doug Jackson is best known for his historical crime novels set during the Roman Empire. He also writes under the pseudonym of James Douglas, although War Games is his first foray into crime under his own name. Very early in the novel it is clear that Jackson has a love of history. His characters see the past in their surroundings, and much of the action is set in and around historical sites in Scotland. This all lends a different angle to proceedings. In fact, War Games is steeped in medieval atmosphere and Scottish history is crucial to the plot.
The psychic angle is also interesting. It has parallels to Matt Hilton’s Preturnatural, which has previously been reviewed on CFL. Jackson deals well with the potential for your disbelief, one shared by the fictional police characters. The opening chapter shows Savage and his skill at work, immediately ‘normalising’ his behaviours. As the novel proceeds the psychic element, which is strongest for Savage when dealing with a death, recedes somewhat and his pursuit becomes more of a traditional crime process. A large degree of tension is produced, particularly as the corpse count mounts and the killer makes an entrance. Savage also suffers a tussle between needing to earn money to pay for his wife’s treatment whilst wanting to be at her side. Their relationship is loving, yet strained. I hope to see more of Savage in future books. He is an interesting character, operating in unusual circumstances.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars