Sunday 24 January 2021



God created the world in one week. In six days Pastor Tom destroyed his own. On the seventh day he rested. Post-Troubles Belfast. One flawed pastor believes he can still make a difference. Hardened, ageing paramilitaries make a last grab for power. Murder, kidnapping, corruption. Pastor Tom strives to make a positive difference in his community, but secrets from his past still haunt him. One bad decision follows another as he tries to do “the right thing.” Will he soon be shackled to a path leading him far from redemption?

An absolute ripper from Simon Maltman with Witness. 

Northern Ireland setting, religion - almost as a main character - but not in the traditional context of Catholic and Protestant animosity, a man with links to a Paramilitary past - under severe pressure and ill-advisedly rekindling lost connections, hopefully as a means of a way out. 

Pastor Tom has some difficulties to confront - financial, career-wise and family. This man with a troubled past and extremely stressed, initially seeks solace at the bottom of a whisky bottle. Bad decision begets bad decision. Each one leading him further and further away from the light and deeper into darkness. 

It's a gripping propulsive page-turner which is akin to rubber-necking at a car crash. You sense early on that things may not end well for chief protagonist, Tom but it's surprising how quickly his one way descent into hell transpires. There's some comfort in him not making the trip on his own.

Interesting main character, not totally likable, definite flaws, a little bit naive and idealistic but unable to leave the past back where it firmly belongs. I enjoyed the setting and the back-drop of a "new" religion with Tom's evangelical mission critical to the plot and all that ensues. 

There's a decent supporting cast of characters which add flesh to the bones of the book. Tom's interactions with his young daughter in particular offer a temporary respite from his problems. There's a lot of guilt to contend with as he recognises his failings and the ways in which he is disappointing his wife, his father-in-law and his flock. 

It's been a while since I smashed out a 300 plus page book midweek while still working, but I found it hard to put this one down.

4.5 from 5

I've enjoyed reading Simon Maltman before - The Sidewinder, Bongo Fury and More Faces - but this one represents a massive step up in class in my opinion. 

Read - January, 2021

Published - 2020

Page count - 314

Source - review copy from author

Format - ePUB read on laptop


  1. Interesting how the Troubles had such an impact on so many aspects of people's lives, Col. It must be especially hard for the clergy, especially those who wanted to do some good. Religion, politics, and violence all mixed up with each other - little wonder this character goes off the rails. I do like the sociocultural setting, and I'm glad you enjoyed this.

    1. Margot, it's a lethal cocktail of ingredients isn't it? I love books like this.

  2. Interesting - in general I'd rather read about high-octane events far away, NI is a bit close to home, but you do a good job of selling it...

    1. Moira, if you give it a go, you can thank me later!

  3. I like the setting and the religious theme, but this is so new I probably won't run into it for a while.

    1. I think the publisher is US based, so you never know.

  4. Northern Ireland is a particularly tough setting and subject. The book sounds good, but I’m not sure I am ready to tackle it. On the list it goes.