The Rule of Fear | Luke Delaney | 2016 (30 June) | HarperCollins | 423p | Review copy | Buy the book
PC Jack King is on the Met’s promotional fast-track scheme and his superiors have no doubt that he could reach the very top. Not only is he a gifted copper on the street, but he’s also intelligent, personable and attractive. Just the sort of police officer the public would trust. What’s more, he enjoys the job. While Jack has every desire to fulfil his potential, he doesn’t want to be tied to a desk too soon. He wants to be out there on the streets, serving the community. And then one day, on a key day in his career development, Jack becomes a hero. He’s badly injured but, even worse than that, what he witnesses is so horrific he will never forget it.
Some months later, Jack King, now a sergeant, is given the all clear to return to active duty. Once more, Jack wants nothing more than to pound the streets, catching the small-time villains that cause such misery to a community. He is given one last job to do before he takes the next step on the promotional ladder. Jack is put in charge of a small team that will clean up the notorious Grove Wood estate, an area plagued not just by thieves and drug dealers but also by someone who is attacking children and their behaviour is escalating. Here is the perfect task for Sergeant Jack King. But Jack won’t admit that he is not the man he once was, before PTSD entered his life and turned it upside down.
I am such a fan of Luke Delaney’s DI Sean Corrigan series. His writing is wonderful, the stories dark and involving and, without fail, the characterisation is of such a high order. In The Rule of Fear, Delaney turns elsewhere, presenting a stand alone independent novel that is dominated entirely by the character of Jack King. He takes a gifted, likeable young policeman, destined for great things, and explores what happens when, suffering from PTSD, he is confronted by such pressure, such petty injustices, such a need to put things right. The world is not what it once was for young Jack King. He has to fix it.
We follow Jack at home and at work, see him through the eyes of his partner, his colleagues, his superiors and the people of Grove Wood. The latter are a motley crew but they are all given sharp identities, all playing their part in Jack’s story. Jack’s personality impacts on everyone and while some grow to hate him, others love him more and more. And we’re placed in a similarly conflicted state as readers. We know what happened to Jack, we’ve seen him before and after, and we care deeply for him even if he at times appals us.
Luke Delaney has written an uncompromising and powerful account of a good man’s fall from grace. Not only is it a brilliantly drawn portrait of a human being but it also paints a detailed picture of what PTSD can do to a person, as well as reflecting on the choices that police officers in the community must make day after day, and the risks that they face. In many ways The Rule of Fear is a tribute to the men and women who work so hard to keep our streets safe. In other ways it depicts most intimately the story of a man’s fall.
The Rule of Fear is not an easy book to read. Parts of it I found deeply disturbing and upsetting. It is undoubtedly grim for the most part and I was uneasy at times about picking it up again. I suspected early on where it would take me and at times I was reluctant to follow. Its language is as hard-line as its mood and it most definitely took me out of my comfort zone. I must admit that there were times when I really missed DI Sean Corrigan. Nevertheless, I think Luke Delaney has achieved something significant with The Rule of Fear and it will make me re-evaluate how I view the police officers who walk our roughest streets as well as our duty of care towards them.