We have detectives in France, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Spain, Italy and sure lots of other places I have never heard of and now we have a first, we have a detective set on the Rock of Gibraltar. At least I think it is a first, if somebody writes and tells otherwise then I will stand corrected.
Actually, the hero of our story Shadow of the Rock by Thomas Mogford is not a detective or a spy or anything like that, he is a lawyer and his name is Spike Sanguinetti. He is not even a criminal lawyer but deals in tax and other related matters but all that changes when he comes home one night to find an old friend, Solomon Hassan, lurking and on the run from a charge of murder. A Spanish girl has been found with her throat cut on a beach in Tangiers and Solomon was seen with her shortly before her death. He managed to elude the authorities but now they want him back and he has turned to Spike for help.
Spike sets off for Tangiers to try to delay Solomon's extradition and finds himself in a network of intrigue and danger. He meets a beautiful Bedouin girl, Zhara, who is investigating the disappearance of her father. It seems that she is following a trail which leads back to Solomon or, more importantly, the multi-national company for which he works.
Now you know if there is a multi-national company involved, they just HAVE to be the bad guys so don't think I am giving too much away here when I say if you assume this, you will not be wrong. Lots of murky double dealing going on and Spike finds himself in some pretty unsavoury company. He also finds himself in some pretty unsavoury surroundings as well: "The ground consisted of layer upon layer of trodden rubbish; flattened cans, shredded sackcloth, powdered glass. A stream snaked between the brick shacks. Its stench - eggs and rotten meat - suggested open sewers. The tall nuclear green reeds grew on one side only, giving Spike a glimpse of a brownish sludge oozing through the centre".
I have to say that after reading Shadow of the Rock it is highly unlikely that you will rush off to your local travel agent to book a holiday in Tangier as it sounds pretty ghastly there with corruption, both literally and figuratively, round every corner and in every shadow but have to admit it is heaving with atmosphere.
I am not going to attempt to give you the story line because not sure that I can as I found it very complicated. This is not a book you just put down and pick up casually, you really have to concentrate to work out what is going on and who is guilty of what. It repays your attention however, and we end up with a twist in the tail in the final chapter which, though I had suspected, still took me by surprise.
This is the first of what should be an interesting series in a fascinating setting. The Rock is an odd place, I visited it in my childhood, it is a spot of Britishness where you least expect it and this Britishness is mixed up with a mixture of other cultures which makes for a slightly skewed ambience. Of course, the Brits on the Rock hold stoutly to their identity whle the Spanish who feel the Rock belongs to them, hover around muttering and moaning and making life as difficult as possible for the Gibraltarians.
In this, the author's debut novel, we are introduced to Spike Sanguinetti, are given some background on his life and meet his father, suffering from some unnamed illness and now living with his son. We also meet his partner, Peter Galliano and the scene is set and the actors are on stage and given their lines. As the series progresses we will, no doubt, get to know them better and learn more of their relationship with each other and this is what I always enjoy about a long running series.
Shadow of the Rock is published by Bloomsbury on 2 August and I note another one of their authors, one William Boyd, has said that Mogford is a 'rare and enviable talent'. Well if William says so then who am I to argue.
Ok I may be a bit biased and willing to believe what Mr Boyd has to say as I met him earlier this year and rather gushed in a highly embarrassing way all over his jumper, but I also concur with his opinion and thought this was a very well written and sharp edged piece of writing. As I said, not easy, you do have to keep the little grey cells on the qui vive but worth it in the end.
I am trying to think of other places where we have yet to have a detective/crime thriller set - Cyprus or Malta or Madeira, maybe or how about somewhere nearer home, say, the Isle of Wight? That might be fun - we could have a title such as Murder at Osborne House or Death on the Ferry to Cowes, the Body in Queen Victoria's Bath....sorry getting silly now.
Ignore frivolous ending to this post - this book is worth reading.