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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Novel set in Gibraltar and Morocco (sleuthing in Europe)

Shadow of the Rock by Thomas Mogford, set in Gibraltar and Morocco

Spike Sanguinetti can happily find his place alongside other European sleuths, and probably (we believe) is the first to be based on the Rock of Gibraltar. But he isn’t a detective, he is a tax lawyer who is a compelling character on a mission to defend his friend of many years, Solomon Hassan.

Solomon stands accused of murder of a young woman, across the water in Tangiers and Sanguinetti travels there to try and delay Solomon’s extradition to stand trial – he is Jewish and fears incarceration in North Africa.

Tangiers is very different to the Rock, that “magical island for the idle English’ as Mogford describes it at one point, (and amazingly is apparently only the size of Hyde Park – the things you learn!).

From Gibraltar dive right into the melee, then, that is Morocco. The pace is generally languorous so that the reader is given time to assimilate the landscape, as Sanguinetti ploughs back and forth between contacts and suspects and gradually begins to explore the links that feed back to a big multinational specializing in solar energy. He soon hooks up with Zahra, a young Bedouin woman, who is looking into the disappearance of her Father, who owned the land where the multinational concern is building.

The author has really captured the feel of these two contrasting land masses, separated by the stretch of water, known as the Gut (so-called because of the dangerous cross currents feeding in and out of the Mediterranean). The Rock feels sedate and British, with names like Tank Ramp, Bedlam Court, Devil’s Tower, yet preserves its own patois, yanito, comprising Spanish, Genoese, English and Hebrew (there, yet another interesting snippet of life on the Rock gleaned from the novel!); Tangiers feels very different, hot, bustling and so very chaotic.

Throughout there are the sonorous notes of Paganini as Sanguinetti turns to his music to soothe and enjoy. This is the first novel featuring the lawyer, and he is not particularly knowable. We learn a few facts – he has a dog and a Father who has concoction of pills to swallow, but as a character he is still lean, he is not yet of the caliber of Brunetti (busy in Venice) or Montalbano (busy in Sicily). But I anticipate that he will develop over time as more books are added to the series.

Following sleuths around their locale is a great way to enjoy a good story and get to know the area. So we have cherry-picked a couple of books set around Europe for you to enjoy.

For Bordeaux we suggest Allan Massie's Death in Bordeaux set during the time of the Vichy Government during WWII.

For Florence Michele Giuttari is perfect, and we suggest A Florentine Death

Venice is unquestionably the territory of author Donna Leon who has written the hugely popular series of sleuthing novels with Guido Brunetti as the hero About Face

Sicily is brought to life by author Andrea Camilleri through his hero Inspector Montalbano, many to choose from - perhaps August Heat

Tina for the TripFiction Team.

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