Thomas Mogford- A Thousand Cuts

When a routine court case takes a sinister turn, defence lawyer Spike Sanguinetti starts asking dangerous questions that nobody seems to want answered. Soon, it’s not just the truth that’s at stake: it is everything and everyone that Spike holds precious. As the Gibraltarian sun beats relentlessly down, crimes of the past and present collide, relationships are tested and long-buried secrets exposed. Who can Spike trust? And where do his own loyalties lie?

There are only a handful of authors that I have followed consistently throughout the course of their writing careers, and particularly following established series. As a reader there is always an equal feeling of excitement and dread when you resume reading a series- excited that there is indeed a new book, but an underlying fear that this one won’t be as good as the ones preceding it. Having reviewed the four previous books featuring charismatic Gibraltar based lawyer, Spike Sanguinetti, it was with an angel and a devil on my shoulder that I started reading A Thousand Cuts…

Opening with a tense incident of military sabotage in 1940’s Gibraltar, I knew instantly that my knowledge of Gibraltar’s chequered history would be pleasantly expanded again. When I originally embarked on this series there were only three things I confidently knew about Gibraltar:

There’s a rock

There are apes.

Spain is a trifle miffed that it’s under British jurisdiction.

What I have consistently loved about this series, is how much Mogford has opened up the turbulent history of this area piece by piece so that every book exposes a different slice of its unique history defined by location and politics. He always accomplishes this in a fluid and non-lecturing style, firmly adhering to the universal truth that past history cannot be denied as absolutely defining and reverberating in our current times. By using an incident set further back in history as the lynch-pin, Mogford is given a great opportunity to people this book with an older array of characters, who find themselves in the cross-hairs of a killer seeking revenge for sins of the past. This he accomplishes with aplomb, weaving together the past and the present, rich with interesting historical detail, and providing an equally fascinating study of the very human instinct of avenging wrongful deeds, however long that takes to achieve. Consequently, one simple act of wartime sabotage leads to murder, false accusations and devastating retribution, and you will find your sympathy for one character in particular toyed with consistently throughout.

As to Spike Sanguinetti himself, the central lead of the series, who is still torn between his two lawyerly hats- corporate and criminal- his story has moved on apace. The normal rescinder applies that joining the series at this later point is not a problem for the reader, as Spike’s former adventures are neatly inserted. This particular story gives Spike the opportunity to don his preferred criminal lawyer guise, and to delve deeper into the circumstances of a perplexing series of murders and to navigate the shadowy world of military intelligence and cover-ups. He is still proving himself a tad ham-fisted in the field of personal relationships, with his partner and police detective, Jessica, on the cusp of maternity leave, and their relationship experiencing a few troubled waters due to this investigation. I liked the way that Mogford homed in on Jessica’s own insecurity at having to give up her career and her determination to keep working until the critical point, and will be interested to see how much motherhood affects her in terms of her staunch loyalty to her career. Also, this book puts Spike sharply at odds with former friends and allies, and with the whiff of illegal practices in his own place of work, Mogford sets these teasers up nicely for the next book. As usual I loved the interactions between Spike and Rufus, his curmudgeonly father, and the way that Rufus is investing emotionally in the care of Spike and Jessica’s adopted son Charlie, which has added another lively dynamic to Spike’s personal life.

So all my initial fears were quickly assuaged, once again fully embracing Mogford’s talent for good storytelling underscored by relevant and interesting historical period detail of this unique location. Thoroughly enjoyed A Thousand Cuts and suitably intrigued as to what the next instalment will reveal in this superlative international crime series. Highly recommended.

(With thanks to the author for the ARC)

Thomas Mogford- Hollow Mountain

Media of Hollow MountainAt the heart of Gibraltar lies the Rock.

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)