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.
Those of us who are devotees of detective fiction, thrillers, police procedurals and mysteries, will be happy to be back in the company of Spike Sanguinetti. He is a satisfying anti-hero, no James Bond, rather a family man trying to do the right thing and make a living in the curious closed community of Gibraltar. The story concerns the solving of an historical mystery about who set off a bomb, an act of sabotage, in the WW2 Royal Naval dockyard in Gibraltar. It involves intrigue and cover-up, political manoeuvrings, legal rivalries and Spike having to deal with the wayward inclinations of his law firm's partner, the colourful eccentric, Peter Galliano. Running parallel to the main plot is an unusually intense personal, domestic drama about Spike's pregnant partner, Jessica Navarro. Thomas Mogford very cleverly makes the two distinct dramas touch crucially on one another, and a dual tension is created. The narrative of Jessica's extremely difficult act of giving birth gives a chilling account of the risks and dangers experienced by a woman in such a fraught situation. A Thousand Cuts is an ideal book to read on the long-haul flight. I read it between London and Auckland, NZ.