A really cracking thriller with an entirely believable heroine. 5-Stars.

How often do you read a thriller with a female protagonist, where she’s portrayed as some sort of cardboard cut-out? Too often in my view. So many authors try to write their women protagonists as female versions of Jack Reacher that it’s begun to grate.

But that’s not the case in The Runner by Stephen Leather. Here we get a female protagonist who’s entirely believable, who couldn’t be described as anything other than resourceful, bright and brave. She’s not a killing machine or a righteous warrior. She’s just a great character who leaps off the page, and the story is terrific too.

So who is Sally Page?
Well, she’s a junior MI5 operative working in the rather unglamorous role of maintaining the fake identities used by real spies. She’s one of the people known as the ‘footies’, who do everything from tending the flats and houses where the spies allegedly live, to doing online shopping, travel and social media under their cover names.

Sally loves to run, and she runs to work in Putney every day rather than take public transport. One day, before she sets off to ‘housekeep’ some flats, she volunteers to do the coffee run for the office team. She returns to find all her colleagues have been shot dead and the gunmen are still there. From this point on Sally is running for her life, not sure who to trust and with MI5 seeming powerless to help.

The chase
As Sally is pursued across London, narrowly missing the bad guys and trying to get help, her bosses at MI5 are struggling to keep up with, or understand what’s happening. The story shifts between Sally’s flight and the urgent investigation that’s being undertaken to work out what the hell is going on. It’s rollercoaster stuff and the action never stops.

My verdict
This book is such a page-turner that I couldn’t put it down, and I finished it in a matter of hours. Then, a week later, I read it again. Second time round I was able to enjoy all the details that had flown out of my brain when I first read it. The descriptions of London and places I’m familiar with; the development of the characters as the story unfolded; and the final revelations about the villains and the reason behind all the killings. It’s great stuff. I know people will say it isn’t great literature but who cares? I really enjoyed it and The Runner earns 5-Stars from me.
Review by: Cornish Eskimo

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