Judith Sullivan is a writer in Leeds, originally from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris. Fluent in French, she’s pretty good with English and has conversational Italian and German. She is working to develop her Yorkshire speak.
Dogs is a
popular title for novels, if not a standout one (this is the second book Shots
has reviewed with this title in less than a year). Good title or not, this Sleeping Dogs gets a big Shots Woof!
Woof, woof, woof.
The fourth installment in the Spike Sanguinetti
Gibraltar-set series, this one allows our fearless lawyer to travel to several
southern European destinations (with a population of 30,000, Gibraltar could
become Midsomer-level dangerous if all the books took place there). In this
instance, Sanguinetti finds himself
detecting and holidaying in Corfu. Dastardly deeds in a beautiful setting has
been done, oh a few zillion times at least, but this one sticks in the mind.
Brevity and precision are Mogford’s strong suits. Sleeping Dogs, at a trim 238 pages,
tells its story with clarity and detail, there is no padding or fluff. And this
befits Sanguinetti, a driven lawyer who lives with his father on the Rock,
where old girlfriends dead and living haunt his days and financial troubles and
the affects of car accident nip at his heels. In Sleeping Dogs, he takes a holiday with his father and yes, ex-lover
Jessica Navarro, at the palatial manse of Leo Hoffmann, a Rupert Murdoch-style
media magnate. On arrival, Spike is struck by the friendly relations between
upstairs and downstairs, the zillionaires mingling easily with the local staff.
Maybe not so friendly, he learns when the body of Albanian
factotum Arben Avdia is discovered not far from the setting of a huge Hoffmann bash.
Not long afterwards, Lakis Demollari, a driver for the Hoffmanns, is also
killed. As Spike and Jessica work to uncover the truth behind the young man’s
death, they discover a Brit-Albanian-Greek melting pot not nearly as harmonious
as it seems. The febrile atmosphere is heightened by master and servant
disparities, ethnic tensions and the availability and usage of recreational
Linking up with Jessica (in more ways than one), Spike
ploughs along a trail of drug dealing and people smuggling to nail Arben’s and
Lakis’s real murderer. The recounting of their quest is interspersed with
elements of a story told by a woman called Calypso.
The story is a pertinent one, taking on some of the major
ironies of the 28-member European Union. Commenting on the poor quality of
Corfu’s toilet flushes, one character quips that “no country should get to stay
in the EU if their plumbing cannot handle some s**y Andrex.” That line sums up
the mish-mash Spike confronts - nationals who must work together but don’t always
understand one another’s customs or quirks.
The beauty of Sleeping
Dogs is the detail Mogford uses to provide believability. His novels are
unique in that people eat and he tells us what they eat (my tummy rumbled more
than once at the descriptions of delicious Greek meals). He zeroes in on
Spike’s struggles with tobacco addiction, including his vaping (again, familiar
territory for this reviewer). He talks about the weather, describes pubs and
bars, shares Spike’s aches and pains from the hit and run. This is cinema vérité in book form , specific
and modern with little superfluous description. Likewise, short chapters allow
the story to sprint along and the reader to keep pace over the short time frame
of the murders and investigations.
I’ve read two of these books and feel I know Spike and like
him. I’m rooting for him to fall in love with a good woman (ha!), to overcome
his physical pains and achieve financial success. I’m not hopeful all this will
come about but I am keen to read the next book in the series.