The Fail Safe by Jack Heath (Allen and Unwin) PB RRP $16.99
Reviewed by Daniela Andrews
Fero and Cormanenko are back! Bestselling author, Jack Heath, has delivered an exhilarating sequel to The Cut Out. Readers of the first book will be expecting another page turner, another late night … and they won’t be disappointed.
The novel begins with Fero helping his ‘parents’ move boxes of potassium iodide into an underground bunker. He has had a bit of time to process Cormanenko’s startling revelation at the end of The Cut Out. Though it pains him to play the role of an unsuspecting son who is loyal to Kamau, his feigned ignorance is keeping him alive.
The pace of the novel is a bit different to the prequel, in that the action scenes are interspersed with Fero’s sudden flashbacks to life as Troy Maschenov. The author cleverly keeps the reader in suspense but uses the scenes from the past to drive the story forward, often in a different direction.
Repelled at some of his memories, Fero’s loyalty to Besmar and to Vartaniev quickly deteriorates. He turns to Cormanenko, an equally disillusioned agent working on a powerful plan of her own. ‘I need you to be my fail safe’, she tells him, and though Fero thinks he understands what she means, it is not until the end of the story that he truly learns.
Fero’s character development in this novel is completely plausible. I was impressed with the way Jack Heath allowed Fero to find himself without the narrative ever lagging in action.
This novel will appeal to readers aged 10 and up. Its themes of war (and its senselessness), border control, immigration, government deception and the power of social media make it an interesting novel for class discussion. Though the beginning of the novel briefly summarises what happened in the prequel, I would definitely recommend reading The Cut Out before starting this one. (Better to lose yourself in the story without trying to piece together what has already taken place!)