An excellent story well constructed like his previous 4 Spike Sanguinetti novels. His presentation is so good that the reader can feel he/she is actually in Gibraltar.
Only one complaint, his references to the ranks of the various Royal Navy officers in the plot are all wrong. they would not have been known as "Engineer Commander" or "Engineer Lieutenant" - there are no such ranks in the R.N. not have there ever been.
Really enjoyed this latest installment in the Spike Sanguinetti series -- although this book stands on its own as a self-contained story. I was drawn in to A Thousand Cuts by the historical fiction aspect as well as Spike's personal story. I won't give too much away, but suffice it to say that the themes of family work brilliantly in parallel. As usual, Mogford breathes real life into characters as the surrounding crime mystery unfolds.
The present day meets the dark and murky past as friends, politics and a cryptic mystery from World War II become finely tuned to the cry for justice. The title, A Thousand Cuts, is more profound than I first imagined with its meaning becoming significantly clearer as the novel moves forward.
The location itself is superb, such a change to the usual urban crime thrillers I tend to stick with for safeties sake. Gibraltar’s oppressive heat, its ancient facades, and the culture and relationships forged on the island all play a role in unravelling the history itself; it may be haven for most, but for others it’s a life sentence of memories they’d rather forget.
Being burdened by the need to do the right thing often presents a dilemma for Spike Sanguinetti at the cost of his own personal relationships. He’s a contradictory character with equally irritating and redeeming features. In the quest for the truth this lawyer often puts his client’s needs above the ones he cares about most. On one hand Spike is compelled to follow the story of a client, an unreliable alcoholic by the name of Christopher Massetti whose father was executed in the 1940’s for a crime Massetti believes he is innocent of. On the other hand his fiancée Jessica and his family are regularly treated to Spike’s impromptu absences, all for the cause he’s pursuing at the time. I wanted to give him a good shake at times if only to remind him of what he has to lose.
Why has this case presented itself now and why do the facts matter to Spike so much? The further he travels into the past the road grows rockier and at times impassable. The whole sordid affair leads him to question the motives of the people that have affected the outcome of his life and how far he will he go to protect them.
The book is separated into seven parts and its clipped chapters make the brooding intrigue incredibly easy to absorb. I was especially interested to read the aged evidence in the form of short transcripts of personal accounts from the 1940s. These were presented in the format they were recorded and made the historical facts appear all that more ‘real’ allowing the emotions, reasoning, and hints of personalities of those being quizzed to break through.
Events conspire throughout to both conceal and reveal the truth, and as a result the strong mystery element and imminent threat dodge and dive with stealthy skill. Very nicely done.
Confession time: when I picked up this book I had absolutely no idea it was part of a series (I know, I know. I will go straight back to my cave after writing this review). Well, it is. A series, that is. Yet it made absolutely no difference that I hadn’t read the previous ‘Spike Sanguinetti Mysteries’ as I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Thousand Cuts as a standalone.
(My thanks to Bloomsbury for providing a copy of this title, for which I am delighted to offer an unbiased review.)
A deadly explosion in Gibraltar’s dry dockyard was never going to divert attention from the Battle of Britain and the few defending the many in their balletic aerial battles witnessed by a never say die generation. But this seemingly innocuous blip on the second world war radar comes back to haunt the dying embers of this generation on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula. Having had his sojourn to Corfu ruined by marijuana dealing mafiosi Spike returns, in the fifth instalment of the Sanguinetti mysteries, with thoughts of belated domesticity but the maverick lawyer is soon embroiled in a series of unexplained murders whose victims have links back to the socio-political melting pot of cross border collaboration between fascist sympathizers and misguided locals. Recently released MI5 papers give the plot added legitimacy and cast a spotlight on the seemingly dispensable status of the inhabitants of this former Moorish outpost to the overall war effort. Oxford educated Thomas Mogford continues to develop Sanguinetti as an emotionally flawed personality whose black and white approach in his professional life does not always translate into emotional characteristics best suited to the longevity of his personal relationships. Jessica is his long suffering partner whose feminine touch brings out a more sensitive Spike but as the body count increases and the prime suspect tests deep-seated family loyalties his professional and personal lives inevitably becomes compromised The pace and syntax of the plot leaves you piecing together the clues in a virtual jigsaw that moves you from the dark days of the monochrome 1940’s to the gaming inspired technology of the 21st century but it’s the common thread of death and injustice that truly adds the heart stopping colour to Sanguinetti’s investigation. The final act is more Shakespearean tragedy than contemporary climax but this juxtaposition of the old and new is a tv adaptation waiting to happen.
A Thousand Cuts, by Thomas Mogford, is the fifth book in the author’s Spike Sanguinetti Mystery series. Set in Gibraltar it focuses on the eponymous defense lawyer who in this instalment agrees to take on a tricky client – a volatile alcoholic named Massetti – at a colleague’s request. The case takes an unexpected turn and Sanguinetti is drawn into a tragedy that unfolded during the Second World War and led to his client’s father being sentenced by the courts to death by hanging.
Sanguinetti has plenty on his mind. He is making a home for his newly adopted toddler son, Charlie, and his fiancée, Jenny who is pregnant with their child. They are living with his father in the house he grew up in, an arrangement that seems to suit all given the amount of childcare the old man is expected to provide. Jenny wishes to find somewhere more appealing to live but with tax exiles requiring residency little decent housing is available within their price range.
The tax status of Gibraltar affects much that goes on including the pressure Sanguinetti finds himself under to service lucrative clients from around the world. His family have lived locally for generations so have many contacts, including the wealthy Stanfords who he has been close to since childhood. Drew Stanford is also a lawyer and Sanguinetti’s opponent on the Massetti case. When Drew announces that he intends to run for political office Sanguinetti is expected to offer his unquestionning support. His personal moral compass puts a strain on loyalties from all sides.
As with any good mystery there is a varied cast of characters whose history draws them together in unexpected ways. The plot is deftly presented in short chapters that keep the reader engaged.
I enjoyed the descriptions of the people, for example in a restaurant where Sanguinetti glances at the clientele:
“tax lawyers, liquoring up non-doms, their raucous laughter failing to conceal that telltale sharpness behind the eye. The insurance brokers – yesterday’s boom industry – in their sensible suits with a touch of the idiosyncratic thrown in: the spotted bow-tie, the statement jewellery. There was even the odd bored-looking Russian or Italian, ignoring his surgically enhanced wife, here under suffereance to see out his required period of tax residency.”
The reader quickly gets a feel for the challenges of living in such a place, the resentments that can fester and the history some would take risks to keep buried. When the death toll starts to rise Sanguinetti finds himself questionning how much he truly knows about long term acquaintances.
This is an engaging and entertaining read that deals well with the very human sides of the cast. As I knew nothing of Gibraltar, the evocation of the setting also added interest.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Bloomsbury.