At the heart of the Rock lies darkness.
The late-morning sun beats down on the Rock of Gibraltar as bored tourists photograph the Barbary Apes. A child’s scream pierces the silence as she sees a monkey cradling a macabre trophy. A man’s severed arm. In the narrow streets of the Old Town below, lawyer Spike Sanguinetti’s friend and colleague is critically injured in a mysterious hit-and-run. Spike must drop everything and return home to Gibraltar, where he is drawn into a case defending a ruthless salvage company hunting for treasure in the Straits. As Spike battles to save his business, he realises that his investigations have triggered a terrifying sequence of events, and that everything he holds dear is under threat…
Having read and reviewed the two previous books, Shadow of the Rock and Sign of the Cross featuring charismatic and slick lawyer Spike Sanguinetti, I could not wait for the third instalment to appear. So here it is, Hollow Mountain, and I think I can confidently say that it does not disappoint…
The novel opens in Gibraltar with a great scene- you can’t beat an ape appearing with a dismembered human arm and frightening a small child- quickly followed by the introduction of Spike Sanguinetti in Genoa on the trail of his errant former lover, the enigmatic and mysterious Zahra. Theirs has been a tricky relationship played out over the course of the three books, and this wily female continues to elude and frustrate the lovelorn Spike. Throw into the mix an almost fatal accident involving Sanguinetti’s partner in his law firm, and an intriguing tale involving the territorial rights of salvaging sunken ships highlighting also the push-me, pull-you battle over the sovereignty of Gibraltar- the hollow mountain of the title- and what transpires is a multi-faceted tale all played out with Mogford’s superb narrative control. Certainly for me, this tightness of plotting meant that no single strand of the story was more overplayed than the others, which is some feat in a relatively short crime novel.
Added to the assured control of plot, Mogford once again presents a cast of contrasting and full characters imbued with wit, charm, nastiness or greed in equal measure. Spike Sanguinetti is a charmer, with his air of calm control and suaveness, undone sporadically by not only the pursuit of Zahra, the heartwarming but fraught relationship with his father, but also by his uncanny knack to find himself in the thick of trouble and murder. Mogford’s characters generally have a nifty line in humour in the face of adversity, and there are some lovely laugh out loud moments. I am particularly fond of Spike’s curmudgeonly father Rufus, and the interaction between them, and despite Spike’s protests to the contrary, there are more alike than either would concede. Likewise, Spike’s police associate Jessica Navarro is growing in stature as the series progresses, and will be interested to see how her character is developed further.
In Mogford’s usual style, the book weaves in little snippets of pertinent information as regards location and socio-political mores as the action pivots between various locations, with Gibraltar itself standing front and centre, bathed in mystery and rich in history. In a nod to psycho-geography, Gibraltar is imbued with almost human characteristics in Mogford’s depiction, and his gradual unfurling of the colourful history of this contentious piece of land over the course of the three books has been fascinating.
So another thumbs-up from me, and delighted to discover recently that Mogford is on his research travels once again in Italy and Albania for the next book. What on earth will Spike be up to next? Rest assured I look forward to finding out. A great read.
Another review of Hollow Mountain can be found at Crimepieces
My reviews of Shadow of the Rock and Sign of the Cross
Thomas Mogford has worked as a journalist for Time Out and as a translator for the European Parliament and the UEFA Champions League. While studying to be a lawyer, he looked into practising abroad. Instead, he decided to write a series of thrillers set in the Mediterranean region. Shadow of the Rock introduces Spike Sanguinetti, a lawyer from Gibraltar who is willing to risk everything to protect his client www.thomasmogford.com follow on Twitter @ThomasMogford
(With thanks to Bloomsbury for the ARC)