Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers, including the Harry Tate series, the Lucas Rocco series and the Marc Portman series. His latest books are ‘The Locker’ (Midnight Ink - Feb 2016) the first in a new thriller series, and ‘Hard Cover’ (Severn House - March 2016), the third of his Marc Portman novels.
When Gibraltan tax lawyer Spike Sanguinetti finds old school friend Solomon Hassan on his doorstep asking for help, it’s not quite the help he’s accustomed to giving. Hassan has been accused of murder in Tangiers, and the Moroccan authorities want to extradite him to stand trial, without bothering to look too hard for a culprit. Furthermore, the victim is a young woman, with her throat cut – and Solomon admits to having been with her just before she died.
Spike travels to Tangiers in an attempt to delay extradition, on the grounds that his friend, who is Jewish, will not last long in a Moroccan jail. But really he’s there to probe into what happened.
He soon discovers that things are a whole lot more complex – and dangerous – than he thought, and that Solomon hasn’t been entirely frank with him. In no time at all, he’s trawling through seedy Tangiers nightclubs and the coastal strip known as The Gut, trying to find where the murder trail began and ended, and following a beautiful young Bedouin girl named Zahra into the shadowy and lethal confines of a bidonville (shanty town), in an attempt to unravel what really happened.
Catching up with Zahra soon makes Spike forget the dangers, however, and she tells him she is trying to find out what happened to her father, a village elder, who has disappeared.
Throw in some shady land deals surrounding a Green Energy scam, with lots of Euros involved, as well as people in high places, and danger is soon buzzing around Spike’s head like sandflies on heat.
Thomas Mogford paints a realistic picture of Gibraltar and its varied cultures, with particular attention to the ‘local’ rather than the British elements on the Rock, while weaving an intriguing and fast-paced tale. Although much of the action takes place in the streets and back alleys of Tangiers, peopled by businessmen on the make, the sans-papiers – illegals living hand-to-mouth while dreaming of getting into Europe - and the ever-present shadow of criminality stretching from the gutters to the very highest parts of society, there’s a clear image of the two worlds on either side of the Straits, and Spike’s attempts to tread a delicate path between them.
More PI than lawyer, Spike Sanguinetti is a likeable and engaging character, quite able (even accidentally) of getting his hands dirty if necessary. He also has an eye for a beautiful girl, especially one in distress.
With plenty of tension and action, and a vividly portrayed background with an engaging cast of ‘regulars’, this looks like the start of a very attractive series. And if you’ve never been to Gibraltar, and want to go somewhere unusual and interesting, this novel might tempt you to go.