Review: Thomas Mogford – Sleeping Dogs

sleepingdogsThomas Mogford is another of my favourite crime writers. Hollow Mountain was in my top five reads last year and he continues to write high quality crime fiction. For his latest book, Sleeping Dogs, he takes his Gibraltarian lawyer/detective to Corfu. It’s a nice change of scenery for the series and, given that I read it in Greece, a perfect holiday read.

Spike Sanguinetti is advised by a therapist to go on holiday to help eradicate some of the demons that have been tormenting him. He chooses to visit the house of his business partner on the wealthy north coast of Corfu. But his holiday is overshadowed by the death of the handsome Greek/Albanian Arben on the neighbouring estate owned by the wealthy Hoffman family. When the son of his hosts’s housekeeper is arrested for Arben’s murder, Spike reluctantly agrees to investigate the case. However lives are put at risk as domestic secrets and dynastic feuds ignite.

I’ve always been impressed by the evocation of the Gibraltar setting in Mogford’s books. It feels genuine even though I’ve never been to that part of the world. So it was interesting to read one of his narratives set somewhere I am familiar with: a Greek island. Mogford puts enough language and local flavour into descriptions of the place to bring alive the setting without it dominating the plot.

In Sleeping Dogs, as well as investigating the killing of Arben, there’s a focus on Spike’s domestic arrangements. This is first seen through his relationship with Charlie, the child he rescued in the previous book, Hollow Mountain, and then in Corfu as he attempts to resurrect his relationship with his childhood girlfriend Jessica.

The quality of Mogford’s writing once more shines through and he makes storytelling look effortless. Which I’m pretty sure isn’t the case. Once more Bloomsbury have produced a writer of quality crime fiction.

Thanks to Bloomsbury for my review copy.

CrimeFest: Friday’s Panels

It’s May and the sun is shining in Bristol so it must be time for CrimeFest. Traffic conspired against me on Thursday which meant I wasn’t able to attend any the panels that day. However, they have been ably written up by Ayo from Shots blog here.

IMG_0125Friday, however, was more successful and I attended the first panel of the day: Debut Authors – An Infusion of Fresh Blood featuring MJ Arlidge, Jake Woodhouse, Colette McBeth, Kate Griffin and Mason Cross. The panel introduced their protagonists and spoke about writers who had influenced their work. What was interesting was the extent to which their disparate backgrounds and influences are producing books which bring something new to the genre. I’m particularly looking forward to reading Kate Griffin’s Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders which features a seventeen year old trapeze artist as its heroine.

The second panel of the day was Murder Know No Boundaries which focused on both domestic and international crime fiction. Moderated by Anne Zouroudi, the international element was represented by Jeffrey Siger whose books are set on the Greek Island of Mykonos and Thomas Mogford whose Gibraltar based book, Hollow Mountain, I recently reviewed on this blog. On the home front, Mari Hannah and Steven Dunne write novels set in the North East of England and the East Midlands. Panellists brought in artefacts that had influenced their writing and discussed the implications of both writing as an outsider looking in at a different culture and of the tensions about writing about your own community.

crimefest_logo1The Modern Thriller panel featured Belinda Bauer, Chris Ewan, Helen Fitzgerald and Simon Kernick and was moderated by Doug Johnstone. I’m a huge fan of these writers and was fascinated by the debate on what differentiates a thriller from a crime novel. Immediacy and pace in the genre were discussed and it became clear that there is a lot of flexibility as to what constitutes a modern day thriller beyond the traditional whodunit.

My final panel of the day was an ‘In the Spotlight’ session featuring French crime writer Dominique Manotti and her translator, Ros Schwartz. They talked about the translation process and in particular the impact of film on readers’ expectations. Manotti writes in the present tense and she made a convincing case for why this tense works so well in French literature. Manotti is a wonderful example of how the personality of a writer can make you want to read their books. I’m catching with Manotti as soon as possible.

Tonight we’re announcing the winner of the 2014 Petrona Award. More about this on the blog tomorrow.

Review: Thomas Mogford – Hollow Mountain

TMThomas Mogford is an author that I’ve been meaning to try for a while but other priorities have got in the way. However, carrying out my resolve to move my reading to other parts of Europe, I picked up Hollow Mountain as I was attracted to its Gibraltar location. I’m glad I did because Mogford is a seriously good writer. He manages to combine tense plotting with excellent prose and has produced a book a cut above the ordinary crime thriller. I wish I’d tried his books earlier.

Lawyer Spike Sanguinetti is in Genoa looking for his missing ex-girlfriend who telephones him to say she doesn’t want to be found and that the lives of his family are at risk. Spike is called back to Gibraltar when his partner becomes the victim of a hit and run accident which may have been a result of him being deliberately targeted. Spike picks up his partner’s outstanding cases which include a missing husband and a salvage company looking for silver bullion in a wreck in the Straits. Both cases lead him into violent confrontation with those looking to protect their financial interests.

Gibraltar is a place that I know little about so it was fascinating to read the descriptions of the baking hot landscape with its lacklustre buildings and slightly bored tourists. The perennial conflict with the Spanish border is constantly referred to and adds to both the tension in the book and the sense of a place brought to life. The landscape plays an important role in the narrative and we get glimpses not only of the tourist Gibraltar populated with its Barbary apes but also of the local community struggling to make a decent life in sub-standard housing.

Hollow Mountain is fairly shocking in terms of its depictions of violence but the author has done well to strike a balance between making the brutality graphic without seeming gratuitous. Although I’ve started reading the series with book three, I’ll definitely look out for the earlier novels, given the quality of the prose. Mogford really is an excellent writer and reminds me a little of another talented author, Adrian McKinty.

Thanks to Bloomsbury for my review copy.