A claustrophobic thriller set over twenty hours on one airplane flight, with the heart-stopping tension of The Last Flight and the wrenching emotional intensity of Room, Hostage takes us on board the inaugural nonstop flight from London to Sydney.
Mina is trying to focus on her job as a flight attendant, not the problems of her five-year-old daughter back home, or the fissures in her marriage. But the plane has barely taken off when Mina receives a chilling note from an anonymous passenger, someone intent on ensuring the plane never reaches its destination.
Someone who needs Mina’s assistance and who knows exactly how to make her comply. It’s twenty hours to landing. A lot can happen in twenty hours.
Hostage is the newest release from Clare Mackintosh who has become one of my favourite authors and it is a thrilling journey. The main focus of the story is on Mina, a flight attendant, who is forced to make an impossible choice while onboard the inaugural nonstop flight from London to Sydney. Mina has been targeted by eco-terrorists who threaten the life of her daughter unless she helps them hijack the plane. Does she sacrifice the lives of hundreds of passengers to save the life of one child? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
As Mina wrestles with her conscience, we get flashbacks to her life before the flight and realise she has recently separated from her police detective husband, Adam, after believing he has had an affair with their au pair. However, Mina and Adam’s marriage has been under considerable strain since adopting their daughter, Sophia, who comes from a troubled background. Adam has been distant but not for the reasons Mina believes and his actions have put his family in danger. Adam and Sophia are soon caught up in their own terrifying situation which may or may not be linked to Mina’s flight.
Mina’s narrative is interspersed by the individual viewpoints of the terrorists who are masquerading as passengers. We do not learn the identity of these passengers until much later but this helps us understand who they are and how they came to be radicalised by their unknown leader. They are just ordinary people whose vulnerabilities have been exploited by a master manipulator and it makes for terrifying reading. The very fact we don’t know who these people are adds a further layer of tension as we view all the passengers and their interactions with suspicion. Mackintosh is so good at creating complex characters who are integral to the story without seeming to be.
The action takes place over a short period of time and if this book was a movie, it would definitely have a countdown clock on the screen. As the story nears its conclusion, you get a sense time is running out for more than one character and the claustrophobic atmosphere increases because they have literally nowhere to go. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Clare Mackintosh book without a few twists at the end which are deftly handled.