It is April 1940 and a bomb has been detonated in the Dockyards of Gibraltar. This surprise attack on the British results in the death of two Navy servicemen. The ensuing investigation finds a Spanish dockyard worker guilty of the crime and he is executed by hanging for their murder. In present day Gibraltar Christopher Massetti, who is the son of the hanged man, is being represented by lawyer Spike Sanguinetti after he has been charged with harassment against a local GP. Although Massetti appears to be an unsympathetic individual with a history of alcoholism and violence Spike feels an obligation to provide him with a fair chance of a defence in court. He also becomes increasingly interested in his father’s case and the murky circumstances surrounding it. As events progress Spike finds himself confronting dangerous information about his oldest friend Drew Stanford-Trench and his father Sir Anthony Stanford-Trench. The situation soon escalates following a couple of murders and everything appears to be linked to the events of April 1940. The British have always had something of a fascination with Gibraltar. During the Second World War Prime Minister Winston Churchill was said to have even been distracted from the Battle of Arnhem by the fact that Gibraltar’s ape population was in decline and that tradition stated that should the apes ever vanish from the Rock British rule would end. He gave strict instructions that action should be taken to ensure this never happened, although he gave no indication as to how this might be achieved. This is the fifth book in Thomas Mogford’s Spike Sanguinetti series and as ever Mogford does an impressive job of evoking the fascinating history and peculiar romance of its setting. From the apes living on the Rock itself, to its winding and sometimes seedy streets and the idiosyncratic local language of yanito, Mogford details a colourful and atmospheric backdrop to his crime thriller. Gibraltar’s war-time history is explored and the sometimes-strained relationship between its citizens and the British skilfully depicted. The combined influences of Spain, North Africa and the many peoples who have arrived at its shores all help to create an unusual and compelling backdrop for the story. Whilst the scale of Gibraltar’s history is often impressive Mogford is also equally skilled at exploring the minutiae of personal lives, family ties and relationships. As part of the overall story arc of the series Spike is to become a father and move into a new house at Catalan Bay and even this low-key aspect of the story is handled with a deft sensitivity by Mogford. Both intellectual and at times visceral in its impact A Thousand Cuts is another welcome addition to an extremely enjoyable and compelling series.

A Thousand Cuts by Thomas Mogford Bloomsbury, £12.99, 9781408868508

 

 

 

 

 

 

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