Book Review – SPEED BOMB by John Lake

Speed Bomb by John LakeSpeed Bomb Synopsis:

The compelling conclusion of the scintillating Leeds 6 trilogy and a stand-alone story, Speed Bomb is a street thriller that runs at a breathless pace. Colourful characters, colourful language and black humour fill the pages as we pick up the trail with Hamed on special operations in the Philippines before returning to Leeds to resolve one or two ‘issues’.

Of the previous books in the trilogy, James Brown (editor of Sabotage Times) described Hot Knife as ‘A raw, honest and brave novel.’

Author David Peace described Blowback as ‘A brilliant and ambitious slice of Yorkshire Noir.’


BOOK REVIEW by Tony Ziemek

Speed Bomb is the third book of a trilogy anchored in Leeds 6, Yorkshire. This is the post-industrial north of England, sometimes beautiful, often squalid. Petty crime, beatings, murders and organised gangs run through this world, as do the drugs that give each book its title. Drugs are part of the fabric and commerce of daily life in the streets and squalid houses of the Leeds underclass. In Speed Bomb though, the issue broadens into drug trafficking by the CIA, exposing the gross delusion of a ‘war on drugs’ that we know only perpetuates and exacerbates the problem.

However, Speed Bomb is no political polemic. There is action, humanity, humour and a wild assortment of references to popular culture. You can get a taste of this just from the chapter titles. Here’s a random sample:

Shakey in the Jungle
Brad Pitt
Family Bucket
A Buffy Moment

Blowback (second in the trilogy) even has a ‘Jimmy Savile’ chapter complete with a bizarre, ghostly appearance, an effect only heightened by recent revelations.

With each book in the trilogy, the canvas has broadened and Speed Bomb opens with a military operation in the Philippine jungle that sets us on a path towards the horror at the core of this story. Not until Chapter 9 do we return to Leeds and follow the maneuvers of the unlikely hero, Hamed Al-Haji, ex Iraqi colonel, mercenary and Islamic family man.

The writing style is concise with minimal description and has something of a film script feel. The humour is similarly understated and usually dark. My favourite comment is by Langston, the black gang leader as he confronts Hamed:

‘Ya mus’ be a big man wit’ some balls to come in ‘ere on yer own. Y’on yer own righ’? Course you is. ‘Cos you work alone. You de Arabian ninja. Unbeatable. I bet yer tink ya can take this lo’ on, don’tcha? I can see it in yer eyes. I’m like Lionel Richie, if Lionel Richie were a bad, bad man.’

As in this example, the dialogue is always beautifully rendered, especially the rhythms of the Leeds accent. It moves the plot along at a good pace and there are themes both central and oblique that open up a satisfying depth to the thriller genre.


For me, Speed Bomb is the best of the trilogy and can be read on its own but tackling all three books is well worthwhile.

Disclosure: The reviewer is an old friend of the author and went to the same school in Leeds 15, which was a lot tamer than Leeds 6.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

~ Tony Ziemek is the lead editor of Ed Fresh Editorial Services.

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BOOK DETAILS: Speed Bomb by John Lake ( Booktopia | Amazon | Book Depository )

Genre: Thriller, Action, Crime

Author Information: Connect with John on his Facebook page or read his interview with East Leeds Magazine