Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
on 20 June 2013
In the second outing for the debonair but troubled lawyer, Spike Sanguinetti, I picked up on a palpable change of tone and feel to this book. From the brutal opening of the murder of Sanguinetti's aunt and uncle in Malta, necessitating Sanguinetti and his ailing father to travel and deal with the deceased's personal affairs, this novel was altogether darker and more circumspect in terms of the investigation, the character of Sanguinetti himself and the overall feel of the book. The more light-hearted aspects of its predecessor Shadow of the Rock were largely absent and there was a significantly less incorporation of wit and humerous interplay between the characters, perhaps reflecting that the events were much more close to Sanguinetti personally than those of the previous book. Having had his relatives murdered by person or persons unknown, the intensity of his father's illness becoming more evident (and maybe the chance of Sanguinetti falling prey to this hereditary disease himself) and the reappearance of Zahra, forging a new life for herself away from Sanguinetti, the emotional toll on our erstwhile hero is much more in evidence. This perhaps suppresses the more jocular aspects of Mogford's writing, but in truth, I rather enjoyed the apparent difference in style between the books, and thought this darker tone heightened the sinister and quite brutal path that the story took. As the story plays out, and the facts behind his relatives' murders come to light, there is also an insidious additional storyline on the exploitation of female migrants that puts Zahra into huge danger, following her work at an immigrant's camp. A bold but necessary depiction of the plight of women seeking a better life for themselves, but so at risk by those who seem to be aiding their escape. I thought this was both a powerful and well-realised strand of the story, that made for uncomfortable reading, but was good to expose in this context.
As with Shadow of the Rock, Mogford's sense of location and atmosphere is without doubt another compelling facet to the cut and thrust of the central narrative. By shifting the action to Malta, as he had done using Gibraltar and Morocco in the first, Mogford has centred on a country with a multi-layered history both in terms of religion and demography, fuelling the book with additional points of interest for the reading, but not resorting to a travel guide commentary of the locations and historical anomalies of this fascinating location. Malta has a rich and varied history that Mogford unveils piece by piece as Sanguinetti traverses this island nation in pursuit of the guilty and each location is vividly brought to life from the comfortable neighbourhood of his family dwelling, to the claustrophobic migrant camp and to the less than salubrious Marsa where the seamier side of Maltese life resides.
Building on the strength of his excellent debut Shadow of the Rock, Mogford has produced a subtly different but equally enthralling follow-up, with an intriguing ending- one that I guarantee like me, will have you eagerly awaiting the next instalment...