A quick rundown… Introducing Spike Sanguinetti, lawyer with a talent for getting in trouble while investigating for a friend accused of murder.
Strengths: Fast paced, different and interesting.
Weaknesses: Sometimes the really short chapters (allowing jumping from scene to scene or forward in time) were a bit annoying.
Why I read it: Sent by Bloomsbury – thank you!
Setting: Gibraltar and Tangiers
Rating: 9 out of 10
Before you place Shadow of the Rock firmly under the thriller category, think again. This is not James Bond style action, not Jason Bourne hand to hand combat (although it does contain a little of both). This is more the ‘ordinary man turned investigator on an adventure’ category (if there is such a thing). And that’s primarily the reason why I enjoyed this novel, because it shows an everyday guy getting out of his depth.
Spike Sanguinetti is a lawyer in Gibraltar, famous for its rock and tax benefits. That’s what Spike does day in, day out – he’s not a criminal lawyer, but a tax one. When a friend calls him after he’s been falsely accused of murder in Tangiers, Spike reluctantly offers his help. Once in Tangiers, he’s faced with another world of murder, solar panels and secrets. His attempt to help his friend Solomon has got him into trouble and his growing friendship with Zahra (who suspects her father was murdered in the name of ‘progress’) isn’t helping.
I enjoyed this book for many reasons, but the first one is because of its setting. You don’t see Tangiers or Gibraltar as a location for many novels and most of my knowledge of this area comes from various travel programs. It was insightful to get an idea of Gibraltar not just as a place to see a big rock and get some duty free. Tangiers, well…I’m not sure if I’d want to travel there just at the moment given that Mogford paints it as a somewhat crooked place. In Shadow of the Rock, Tangiers is presented as a city where all sorts of corruption are taking place in the background. However, the description of the souks and buildings has got me more interested in Morocco.
Shadow of the Rock is also exceptionally action packed for a book lacking the stereotypical action man main character. The pages literally turn themselves, as Spike runs into more and more problems and as more people start to target him. There are a lot of chapters in this book (some less than a page) and it did get a little annoying, because they were used as to stop the action or to jump forward in time. However, that’s a minor thing to complain about!
I admire Mogford for using a different style of hero for his main character. Spike doesn’t get in a lot of fisticuffs or death defying situations, but uses his brain to turn situations to his advantage. It reminds me a little of Stella Rimington’s Liz Carlyle (who does have the benefit of being a British secret agent). There’s also light relief with the secretary character at Spike’s hotel in Tangiers, who speaks only in mysterious sayings.
The ending was somewhat open, which was a refreshing change from some books that tie up everything neatly. There’s also mention of what could become the next book in the series, which I’ll be looking forward to. Spike can now add to his credentials crime solver.