Short Stories Challenge – Bloodsport by Tom Cain from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

Published June 6, 2015 by bibliobeth


What’s Bloodsport all about?:

Bloodsport tells the story of a would-be assassin and his target as he plots and carries out his attack.

What did I think?:

Bloodsport by Tom Cain is one of the shorter stories in this crime collection and came as quite a nice surprise – particularly at the end. I’m not familiar with any of Tom Cain’s work but decided to read up a bit on him as this story intrigued me so much. Tom Cain is actually a pen name and the author’s real name is Daniel Thomas, a British journalist by trade but has written a number of thriller novels including The Accident Man featuring protagonist Samuel Carver.

The story begins with quite a bang (well…almost) as we are taken into the mind of an assassin called Carver (same one as his novels? Hard to tell) as he is looking down the sniper sight of his rifle at a couple who appear to be giving an interview to the mass media. Carver is actually feeling quite sorry for the wife who seems like a decent and loyal human being and who offers her full support to her husband, no matter if she is wrong for doing so in the eyes of Carver himself. The reader begins to think that this man, the “target,” must be someone quite important. In fact, he is the Prime Minister and what he has done boils down to one name – Mike Swift, a soldier who has died on duty in Afghanistan.

“After all the politician’s lies, the corruption, the greed, the mountainous debts, the obsessive control freakery and the rampant incompetence, it had taken the death of a single soldier in Afghanistan to shift Carver out of the general herd of pissed-off, moaning but essentially inert citizens, into a group of one: the man who was going to do something about it.”

And Carver is one pissed-off citizen. His main problem is that the public and the soldiers family have been lied to. The report on his death stated that he was killed in a helicopter accident but in fact the helicopter hadn’t turned up when Swift requested it at all. They cost too much money you see. And as a result, the Taliban get hold of Swift and leave his body to be found completely mutilated. Beware, you may need a strong stomach to read on…

“There’s something about a body with the skin flayed off its limbs, the entrails neatly piled upon a slit-open stomach and a crudely-carved, gaping wound where the genitalia should be that sends a powerful message.”

Carver is disgusted by what he finds out. Retired from the special service himself, he has ways and means of getting to the truth behind the deception and decides to act on it. He decides that this should happen with force and ever so publicly so that the powers that be can understand perhaps half of what that poor soldier must have went through. Carver uses all his contacts and personal experience and manages to get into a perfect spot up a tree, completely camouflaged with his rifle at the ready. He has found out that the Prime Minister is at his holiday home and will give a few photographic opportunities with his wife to the general press. Think: “Oh look how lovely and rich and privileged and lucky we are!” sort of thing.

I felt that this was a brilliant contemporary read that could well describe the situation we find ourselves right now. It kind of reminded me a little of the outpouring of grief and anger when a local soldier was killed in horrific circumstances in London fairly recently. What I wasn’t prepared for however, was the ending. And there is no way I am going to spoil it. It had me on the edge of my seat, not knowing what was going to happen next and when it ended I actually laughed a little. Don’t worry, I’m in no way sadistic but when you read it too you will understand. After finishing this story it really made me want to explore the authors other works. He writes with such fantastic clarity and makes everything feel authentic whilst ramping up the tension and suspense. I have to say that it’s a powerful and dramatic piece of fiction that left me hungry for more, I’m certain that I’ll find the same in his novels and am excited to give one a go.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: The Smoothest Way Is Full Of Stones by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

2 comments on “Short Stories Challenge – Bloodsport by Tom Cain from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

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