The Defector

The Defector

A Suspense Thriller with a Psychological Twist

What will you do, when it's you or them? 

This is the dilemma at the heart of The Defector - can Martin Cormac turn his back on his ruthless past as a dealer, a major city player, and do the right thing? Not when he's looking for answers in a succession of sleazy dives... 

One night, Cormac gets caught trying to chat up the bar owner's girlfriend and soon needs rescuing. Unfortunately, his white knight is anything but - Janac's a big-time drug baron with a psychotic urge to test people to the limit, and if possible... over it. 

Dangerous Game
And soon Cormac is running from more than his past, he's running from the most dangerous game he will ever play. When he runs into the arms of his ex-girlfriend - and his only real love - even the wide open spaces of the ocean may not be a big enough place to hide.

The Defector is a suspense thriller with a psychological twist, and a finale that ranks with the all-time classic sea adventures - read the opening chapters with the sample below.

The Defector has topped the thriller charts at both and

Originally published by Random House UK (as The Delivery) and HarperCollins ANZ.

Translated into Dutch as De Inzet by Uitgeverij Luitingh-Sijthoff.

Translated into German as Gnadenloses Spiel by Delius Klasing, now titled Der Überläufer.

Translated into Japanese as The Delivery.

Download eBook Sample

'Right click' on the links below and choose 'Save As' to download the audiobook to your computer.

PDF eBook Sample PDF    


Read the first five chapters in the PDF, and then you'll want to buy the whole book - available for Kindle, iPad and many other ereaders from,,, the iBookstore, or at Kobo.

The Defector


‘An excellent drug-smuggling thriller.’

The Bookseller

‘This is a remarkable thriller – chillingly violent, full of tension and with a very original ending.’

Publishing News

‘New British fiction writer Mark Chisnell will have to go a long way to top his debut.’

Bristol Observer

‘A fabulous and brilliantly written story.’

Peterborough Evening Telegraph

‘This thriller moves at huge pace, mixing philosophical debate with breathless action. The culmination of the game will astound you.’


‘Compelling, hard to put down but not for the squeamish or faint-hearted.’

CityMix Auckland

‘The novel has an evil storyline, with little relief and with great tension created, particularly around the yacht chase.’

Hawkes Bay Today

And from the book blogs (many with the old cover):

'I really enjoyed this book, it's a tense action thriller with a great psychological edge.'
Booked Up

'Well plotted and as smoothly written as anything else I’ve read lately.'
Kindle Obsessed

'If you’re a fan of fast-paced psychological thrillers, you’ll love The Defector.'

'I finished the book over an hour ago and my stomach is still in a small knot. Decompression could take a while.'
Let’s Book It

'It was a pleasure to read a thriller in which some of the conflict was physical, some romantic, and some took place on the battlefield of competing philosophies.'
Reading Review

The Defector

Writing The Defector

The Defector started life as one idea – perhaps most books do – unfortunately, it was an ending. A game of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, played for life and death stakes. I’d come across the Prisoner’s Dilemma while studying philosophy, it was dreamed up by scientists at the American RAND Corporation think-tank back in 1950, and got its name from the story told to illustrate the idea. It still has a hold on the public imagination.

Two prisoners are held in solitary confinement, both accused of collusion in the same crime. They are each given the chance to turn State's evidence to assist in the conviction of the other. If they both choose to remain silent, they will each be convicted for one year. If they both choose to turn in the other, they will be convicted for three years each. However, should one of them remain silent and the other turn State's evidence, the squealer will go free and the other will do five years.

In Prisoner's Dilemma terminology squealing to the authorities is called defecting, while remaining silent is known as cooperating. The problem for each player is whether or not they can trust their fellow prisoner to remain silent – to cooperate. If they can, both of them get off lightly. But if one player, with both their interests at heart, decides to cooperate and remains silent, while the other defects and squeals, then the co-operator ends up in jail for five years whilst the defector gets away completely. That would seem a pretty bad deal if you were the co-operator. So, the thinking goes, wouldn't it be better to squeal - just in case? But if both prisoners are thinking the same thing they both end up in jail for three years instead of one - if only they could have kept quiet.

Such is the train of thought leading to the most frequent result of a one-shot Prisoner's Dilemma in modern western society - mutual defection. It’s a central metaphor for our interpersonal behaviour. Take the case of an unmanned barrier on a railway system with no ticket inspectors. Hop over the barrier and you get a personal gain - you save the fare. But if enough people do it, eventually the rail company has to put the fares up - and everyone who pays will suffer for the free ride the barrier hoppers are getting. In Prisoner's Dilemma terms the freeloader is defecting - putting his personal welfare ahead of the group interest. While the ticket buyer is cooperating, hoping that everyone else will do the same and prices will stay down.

Boom Turned to Bust...

It was the crash of various financial markets in the late eighties and early nineties - and the inexorable Prisoner’s Dilemma logic of everyone selling to defend their own position that forced those crashes to happen – that gave the final spur to write the book. But in The Defector I wanted to take the Prisoner's Dilemma to the other extreme. What if the choices involved were life and death? And what if the lives belonged to people you knew and someone you loved?

I thought the game of Prisoner’s Dilemma-cum-Russian Roulette that I had in mind for the final chapter would make a fabulous ending. Unfortunately, I started with no idea of what went before. It took eight drafts of the book to figure it out – slowly growing the lives of Martin, Kate and Scott. But it did give me plenty of opportunity to learn the craft of writing novels on the way. I’ve read about other writers going through this learning process with different books, rather than the same one - but I was so convinced by the story as it developed that I stuck at The Defector.

It’s a book with an idea: that Games Theory in general, and the Prisoner’s Dilemma in particular, are relevant to our behaviour in society. And I hope that it will leave the reader with something to think about. At the same time, it should appeal to anyone who enjoys a thriller, with plenty of action, a desperate love triangle and Martin’s struggle for redemption in the eyes of his former girlfriend.

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The Defector