Reviews of Hollow Mountain | Reviews of Sign of the Cross | Reviews of Shadow of the Rock | Reviews of Sleeping Dogs | Reviews of A Thousand Cuts

‘Hollow Mountain’ Reviews


One of the advantages of being a literary critic is the exposure it gives to new authors, especially when they turn out to be rather good. Thomas Mogford was/is one such author, and it was fortuitous that I had the chance to crit his first novel in his ‘Spike’ Sanguinetti series, ‘Shadow of the Rock’. Although not a resident of Gibraltar, Mogford has spent time here and researched both Gibraltar and the Gibraltarians in detail, giving his characters (Spike Sanguinetti is a Gibraltarian lawyer) and setting considerable veracity. So much so that I remember with his first novel feeling that I had actually met the person on whom Spike Sanguinetti’s law partner was based – it took me time to realise that the character was just so well drawn that he felt completely familiar to one who had worked in a local law firm.

Spike, otherwise Somerset Sanguinetti, is the only child of a retired headmaster of Sacred Heart School, and his wife, herself a much loved teacher, whose unexplained suicide has been a source of tension between father and son for years. Their family home is in Chicardo’s Passage, and in town Spike is partner in a law firm with the solid, bon viveur Peter Galliano.

When the story opens, Spike is on the Paradise Coast of Italy, trying to locate Zahra, the wild creature he had met in Morocco and with whom he had fallen in love. He had recued her and brought her to Gibraltar from where she had eventually run off to a dubious life in Malta. Zahra is now apparently ‘owned’ by a known international criminal, Žigon, and has sent Spike a message to forget about her, to go away, and warning him that Žigon will not hesitate to kill anyone who crosses him. It is there Spike is forced to leave his search and return urgently to Gibraltar, where his partner, Peter Galliano, has been the victim of a hit and run and is lying in a coma in St Bernard’s Hospital.

I would love to elaborate further on the plot, which is really rather good, but then it might spoil your enjoyment. The denouement of each of the various strands is bloody and dramatic but satisfying – as it should be in a good thriller. Thomas Mogford’s ‘Hollow Mountain’ is published by Bloomsbury and is another success for this author who was shortlisted for the CWA Dagger award for best new crime writer with ‘Shadow of the Rock’, and has made an equally convincing job of ‘Hollow Mountain’. I hope it gives you as much pleasure as it gave me. Christine Thomson


In Mogford’s breathless third Spike Sanguinetti novel (after 2013’s Sign of the Cross), the Gibraltar lawyer temporarily abandons his search for his lost love, Zahra, when he learns that his partner and best friend, Peter Galliano, lies near death, the victim of a suspicious hit-and-run. Picking up Peter’s caseload, Spike falls into a marine salvage operation run by Mort Clohessy, a ruthless treasure hunter. He also agrees to help a widow, Mrs. Grainger, who believes that her late husband, whose body was found on the Rock by the Barbary macaques, did not commit suicide as the police claim. Meanwhile, Spike receives an enigmatic call from Zahra, who warns him not to try to find her, and a shadowy killer dogs his footsteps. Torn, like the Rock itself, between two cultures, British and Mediterranean, Spike pursues his vision of justice under the torrid southern sun. A descent into Gibraltar’s eerie tunnels leads to a bittersweet finale. Agent: Nicola Barr, Greene & Heaton (U.K.). (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Spike is still hunting for his missing love, Zahra, but he is temporarily distracted by his law partner’s accident. Thrills don’t get any better than those in Mogford’s compelling Gibraltar-based series; this is number three (after Sign of the Cross). Teresa L. Jacobsen 

THE SUN, 23 MAY 2014

Hollow Mountain – Thomas Mogford (£11.99). Decent Gibraltar lawyer Spike Sanguinetti is hired by a dodgy salvage company after it discovers a wreck full of treasure and finds he is out of his depth. Intriguing story that benefits from the unusual, rather seedy setting of the Rock. 4/5. Simon Copeland


The first two Spike Sanguinetti novels strayed from the Gibraltarian’s home turf to nearby Tangier and Malta, and while this one has side trips, too (mainly to Italy’s Amalfi Coast), it sticks closer to the Rock, concluding with a gripping set piece inside the fabled Hollow Mountain. Mogford writes full-bodied, multifaceted characters, and he’s no slouch at suspenseful plotting, either, but landscape is his real sweet spot. In telling the story of Sanguinetti’s investigation of his law partner’s assault, and his ongoing search for his vanished girlfriend, Zahra, Mogford imbues the tale with the sights and sounds of Gibraltar, a peninsula bridging two continents and home to a multicultural stew of remarkable richness and resonance. Melancholy continues to shroud the charismatic, brooding Sanguinetti, both in the present and the past, as his investigations lead to the mystery of his mother’s suicide and to some startling revelations about Zahra. Recommend this outstanding series to fans of Jean-Claude Izzo’s Marseilles trilogy, set in a similarly sun-speckled, racially turbulent Mediterranean locale and starring another darkness-engulfed hero. Bill Ott


Thomas 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. Sarah Ward


When a group of Barbary apes find a severed human arm their gruesome discovery sends shock waves around the Rock of Gibraltar. Down in the Old Town Peter Galliano, friend and colleague to lawyer Spike Sanguinetti, is seriously hurt in a hit and run incident.

These two seemingly disparate events are to have profound consequences for Spike. Forced to abandon his search for his former client and lover Zahra in Italy he must return to Gibraltar to prop up his struggling business and support his injured partner.

On his return home Spike picks up a case involving a salvage company called Neptune Marine who have discovered a shipwreck in the Straits of Gibraltar and are anxious to claim its contents. Matters appear to be complicated by smuggled silver bullion found onboard the vessel but he begins to suspect that Neptune Marine are not telling him the whole truth about their salvage operation. Spike is also approached by Amy Grainger, the widow of Simon Grainger, whose arm was found on the Rock, to investigate his death.

As he delves deeper into the murky details behind his death Spike quickly begins to uncover a dangerous and fast-moving intrigue.

Hollow Mountain is the third in the Spike Sanguinetti series by author Thomas Mogford following on from Shadow of The Rock and Sign of the Cross. Our beleaguered hero is seriously tested in this latest instalment as Mogford appears to gleefully throw trauma after trauma at him. Mogford’s real talent lies in his ability to evoke a great sense of location and history, a skill that he put to use so effectively in his first two Spike Sanguinetti mysteries. The eccentricties and peculiarities of Gibraltarian culture are explored here, such as having its own dialect called Yanito that contains a mixture of English, Spanish, Genoese and Hebrew. Mogford obviously relishes the opportunity to share unusual historical nuggets of information with his audience. For example he explains that the term “pieces of eight” derives from the fact that in the past pesos were made of eight reales’ worth of sterling silver, (a reale being a type of coin). Intelligent, pacey and immensely likeable in its lively descriptions of cultures and peoples, Hollow Mountain is a worthy addition to an already impressive series. Here’s to more stories set in the shadow of the Rock. Giles Morgan


Thomas Mogford is a relative newcomer whose crime novels are set in Gibraltar. Hollow Mountain (Bloomsbury £11.99/ebook £7.99) is a classic detective story in which a lawyer, Spike Sanguinetti, finds himself representing an international salvage company. The firm is trying to salvage lead ingots from a wreck and needs legal help after coming across a hoard of silver coins, but Sanguinetti begins to suspect more sinister motives. Some of the plot developments are signalled a little too obviously, but Mogford is a fluent writer and the book gains from its unusual setting. Joan Smith

‘Sign of the Cross’ Reviews


SIGN OF THE CROSS is number two in Thomas Mogford’s series about lawyer Spike Sanguinetti. A third, HOLLOW MOUNTAIN, is also out now.

At CrimeFest 2014 Mogford said that the small size of Spike’s home Gibraltar meant that his adventures had to take him further afield, and in this case he is called out to the other end of the Mediterranean. His Maltese uncle and aunt have died – in a murder-suicide, according to the local authorities. Spike is needed to sort out their affairs.

Malta is vividly realised without the book becoming a tourist guide. Historic and well-preserved in some places, run-down and seedy in others, and above all a tiny community; Spike sees both sides of the island. Its small size is part of the Malta’s greatest problem. It has become notorious as a crossing place between Europe and Africa, and acts as a way-station for thousands of refugees on their way north. After a period in detention they are moved to run-down tent camps elsewhere on the island. They are a massive strain on the resources of a tiny economy and hence unpopular with many of the locals. Equally the refugees make easy pickings for predators.

Spike’s love interest from SHADOW OF THE ROCK, Zahra, is now working as an Arabic-to-English translator for a refugee charity. Through her Spike gets to see conditions in the camps at first-hand.

Meanwhile, he looks into the deaths of his uncle and aunt. David Mifsud, an art historian, had been acting very strangely before his death and there is scant evidence for suicide. It soon looks to Spike as though his uncle’s murder is connected to a deeper mystery. This side of the story brings in the Knights of Saint John, the order of knights which has run Malta since medieval times, and who are represented in the book by the baron who was David Mifsud’s landlord.

With all the ancient chivalric orders and hidden secrets I was slightly worried we were getting into ‘Da Vinci Code’ territory, but this is ultimately a down-to-earth thriller. Spike is a realistic sort of hero. His home life is complicated by caring for an increasingly frail father and the early loss of an alcoholic mother. He’s a bit of a fool when it comes to managing his love life, which makes trouble for those around him. But he is loyal to his friends and tries to do right by them, even if it drags him into danger.

Overall, a taut thriller with a strong sense of place and a conscience: Mogford isn’t afraid to confront the conditions in the refugee camps.

Health warning: there is a graphic scene of murder in chapter one which may offend some readers. You can safely skip it. Rich Westwood


Gibraltarian lawyer Spike Sanguinetti is summoned to Malta in Thomas Mogford’s Sign Of The Cross (Bloomsbury, £12.99) to arrange the funerals of two relatives who have died in horribly violent circumstances. But the idea that his aunt was murdered by her beloved husband, who then committed suicide, seems absurd to Sanguinetti. His attempts to find another explanation lead him into various dangerous worlds, including art fraud, people smuggling and Malta’s archaic and deeply conservative secret societies. Mogford packs a great deal into a relatively slim novel but it’s the unfamiliar Mediterranean setting, fascinatingly presented, that will linger in readers’ memories. Matt Coward


Sign of the Cross

Thomas Mogford (Bloomsbury, £12.99)

Spike Sanguinetti swaps the Gibraltar courtroom for a fast-paced thriller as he bids to prove his art-mad uncle did not kill his wife and then commit suicide.

Sanguinetti, hardly cast in the all-action mould as he trades in his legal brief for the instincts of an amateur detective, struggles to unravel the mystery unfolding on the island of Malta.

Centuries of sieges have turned the former British colony into a land populated by a mix of Europeans and Africans trying to find their own personal salvation.

Thomas Mogford’s second Sanguinetti thriller continues the excellent work of this London-based journalist and writer. As the hero peels back the layers of Malta’s melting pot of a society, he delves further into the complicated world of the Knights of St John, which will leave the reader eagerly anticipating the next instalment.

Expect there to be many more adventures for the lawyer who has an aptitude for sleuthing. Roddy Brooks


Sign of the Cross

by Thomas Mogford
Bloomsbury, May 2013, $25.00

Gibraltar-based lawyer Spike Sanguinetti travels back to his homeland of Malta for the funeral of his uncle and aunt, David and Theresa. The two were involved in an ugly domestic dispute that escalated to a ghastly murder and suicide—or so the police believe. Spike isn’t so sure and starts his own investigation. The couple did not have a history of violence. Would an art historian just snap and brutally cut his wife’s throat? The police think that Theresa was having an affair and David’s jealousy led to murder. But many of Theresa’s friends don’t buy it, either, since she openly showed her devotion and love for her husband. Spike snoops around, discovering that the real killer may be connected to Theresa’s job working as a refugee aid worker. As Spike delves into the mystery, a woman from the refugee camp goes missing, as does someone else close to Spike, confirming his belief that he’s on the right track and that the police are covering something up.

Mogford’s second novel featuring his crime-solving attorney grips readers’ attention with the opening murder. The scene is ugly and vicious, destroying any notion we may have that this will be a fun romp through two inviting Mediterranean countries. Mogford does a great job of describing the locales, but the setting resonates because it feels truthful and free of romanticization, giving readers a glimpse into local life beyond a superficial travelogue. Though the book is briskly paced and thrilling, it doesn’t come at the expense of depth. Mogford packs the story with plenty of historical asides, but thankfully not in a manner that takes away from the central plot. Although he’s not a detective, Spike makes for an intriguing protagonist. Despite his reluctance to enter the fray as a detective, he feels honor-bound to do so and is tenacious enough in the face of danger to pursue a path toward the truth. Readers should greatly anticipate the next installment in this series. Derek Hill


Spike Sanguinetti has received some shocking news. His uncle and aunt have been found dead at their home in Malta. The Gibraltar based lawyer is called upon to travel to Malta for their funerals and to execute their wills. Upon arrival he finds the circumstances around the deaths to be far from clear. According to the Maltese police force it was the result of a domestic dispute that spiralled out of control with his uncle stabbing his wife before killing himself. However, Spike is far from convinced. Nothing in the background of the mild-mannered art historian David Mifsud suggests a propensity for the violence involved in the case.

Spike enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend Zahra in finding out more about the lives of his Aunt and Uncle. Zahra works for the same charity that Teresa worked for helping economic migrants and refugees from the effects of The Arab Spring. Gathered in filthy gated camps on the island, Spike finds their living conditions shocking and disturbing. Spike’s investigations lead him from the seedy underbelly of Maltese society to the crumbling grandeur of its capital Valletta and the legendary order of the Knights of St John of Malta. Before long Spike is involved in a search for a lost masterpiece by the artist Caravaggio that brings him into contact with the Maltese criminal underworld.

Sign of the Cross is the second in the Spike Sanguinetti series by author Thomas Mogford and follows on from the events of Shadow of the Rock. Mogford’s evocations of the atmosphere, language, architecture and landscapes of the Maltese archipelago are rich and detailed and create a memorable backdrop to his crime narrative. Delving into the disturbing world of people trafficking Mogford fuses a compelling and exciting plot with a detailed and enthusiastic study of Maltese history. Indeed it is Maltese history that is at the real heart of the story and Mogford does a fine job of exploring it. An absorbing crime thriller in a fascinating setting, surely Dashiell Hammett would have approved. Giles Morgan


Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof

Sign of the Cross.

Mogford, Thomas (Author)

May 2013. 240 p. Bloomsbury, hardcover, $25.00. (9781620402009).

Lawyer and reluctant sleuth Spike Sanguinetti returns (following Shadow of the Rock, 2012) in this second installment in Mogford’s captivating series set in Gibraltar. This time Spike leaves the Rock with his aging father to attend the funerals of his aunt and uncle in Malta. The violent death of his relatives—his uncle apparently stabbed his wife before turning the knife on himself—doesn’t sit well with Spike, who decides to nose around a little before doing his job of executor of the wills. His nosing prompts a reunion with former girlfriend Zahra, who is working as a translator in Malta’s immigration camps, but just as suddenly as Zahra reappears in Spike’s life, she disappears again. Setting is clearly Mogford’s trump card, and he does for Malta in this episode what he did for both Gibraltar and Tangier in the first book, contrasting old and new worlds while forcing his characters to walk the delicate fault line between the two. Spike Sanguinetti is a younger, sexier, unmarried but still sensitive version of Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti, and his adventures may eventually attract a Leon-size audience. — Bill Ott


Although he’s a lawyer rather than a private eye, Gibraltar-based Spike Sanguinetti certainly acts like one. The only problem with being based on the Rock of Gibraltar is that it’s rather small so the number of cases he can get involved in must be limited and his first outing last year took place mostly in Morocco just across the water.

In his second case, Sign of the Cross, from Bloomsbury, Thomas Mogford sends Sanguinetti to Malta, another British outpost of an island halfway across the Mediterranean, to investigate the very suspicious deaths of his aunt and art historian uncle, their deaths forming a very brutal prologue to the book. Some of the bitchy dialogue comparing the two islands is absolutely priceless and Mogford shows a sharp eye for descriptive detail.

I was impressed with Mogford’s debut, Shadow of the Rock last year and I think Sign of the Cross is even better, enhancing Spike Sanguinetti’s reputation as a resourceful and likeable hero, despite being a lawyer. If his adventures continue their island-hopping progress (where next – Cyprus?) hanging on to Spike’s coat-tails will be almost as much fun as a Mediterranean cruise without the downside of seasickness or that awful couple from Birmingham who always insist on joining one at the Captain’s table. Mike Ripley


Starred Review

Once again, Gibraltarian attorney Spike Sanguinetti confronts unwanted violence in his personal life, when his aunt and uncle die in their Malta home, apparently from a murder/suicide. Spike senses this is homicide and sets out to prove it. Readers know that the killer is looking for a valuable painting, but Spike must trace his uncle’s last days before he can make that connection. Along the way, he reconnects with his former lover, Moroccan refugee Zahra, and she opens doors for him in the Maltese community. Trouble is, the killer keeps pace with Spike and Zahra, and he has no compunction about taking more lives. By the time Spike realizes that human trafficking is part of the equation, Zahra is missing.

VERDICT: Starting with a tortuous opening and rarely letting up, Mogford’s superbly plotted thriller (after Shadow of the Rock) is just as riveting as his debut. Hang on for twists, layers of deception, and unexpected betrayals. Partner with Conor Fitzgerald (art and organized crime) and Harry Bingham (human trafficking).


In the second novel of his series (Shadow of the Rock, 2012), Mogford sets up his unconventional hero for a third volume in the violent world of Gibraltar-based attorney Spike Sanguinetti.

Spike, whose family originally hails from Malta, returns there with his aging father, Rufus, when his father’s brother, David, and his beloved wife, Teresa, are found dead, victims of what police say is a murder-suicide. But Spike and his dad know that something is wrong. David loved his kind, beautiful wife, and their late-in-life marriage had been a source of great joy to both of them. Police believe David, an art expert, cut Teresa’s throat after discovering she had a lover. But those who knew Teresa, a generous woman who worked for a nonprofit refugee relief agency, say that the only love outside of David that Teresa possessed was her dedication to the agency’s clients. Slowly, Spike begins to realize that David and Teresa fell victim to something much more sinister than a love triangle. And when young women, including one from Teresa’s camp and another from Spike’s past, also disappear, Spike joins forces with family friends who are also quasi-celebrities on Malta and starts questioning the investigation. Soon, he is thrust into a dangerous cat-and-mouse game that he neither prepared for nor understands. Mogford opens with a graphic homicide, and while his writing is atmospheric and evocative of the exotic locales his characters occupy, his prose tends to come off as dark and brutal. Romantic souls who want to escape for a few hours to Malta, or in a lesser capacity, Gibraltar, will learn plenty about their histories and customs, but there’s nothing pretty about either the settings or the characters they’ll meet along the way.

The author overuses changes in tense as a literary device, throwing in the requisite ho-hum evil conspiracy or two, but the cons don’t outweigh the pros in this hard-hitting, no-holds-barred novel that will leave readers panting for the next installment.

‘Shadow of the Rock’ Reviews

ARAB SPRING NEWS – September 14th 2014

Shadow of the Rock is the first in Thomas Mogford’s crime series featuring lawyer Spike Sanguinetti.  Spike lives on “the Rock,” i.e. Gibraltar with all its diversity of ethnicities (English, Spanish, Arabic) and associated issues.

 When Solomon Hassan, an old friend, desperately turns to Spike for help, he must listen.  Solomon has been accused of murdering a Spanish heiress in Tangier and escaping to Gibraltar.  He swears he’s innocent and begs Spike to take his case and prevent extradition back to Morocco.  The death penalty there is execution.

 What Spike learns is that the case is not so simple.  It will involve a renewable-energy company and its plans for solar-power in the Sahara.  In Morocco, the more Spike investigates (while the local police can’t be bothered) the more dangerous it becomes.  Deep in the desert, Spike is even subjected to a primitive Bedouin truth-telling test.

 Just when you think you’ve figured out “who done it,” some new wrinkle appears until, finally, the plot is revealed. . . or is it?  You will be shocked by the last twist in this thriller.

 Thomas Mogford has written two more in this series so look for them in future reviews.  I can hardly wait for more by this terrific mystery writer. Brenda Repland


Summer Crime — Paperbacks

Word-of-mouth approval for any new title is something that publishers desperately seek, but are unable to guarantee. Bloomsbury, however, must be rubbing their hands when the phenomenon kicked in resoundingly with Thomas Mogford’s Shadow of the Rock, which arrives festooned with praise from the likes of William Boyd. Gibraltarian lawyer Spike Sanguinetti comes home to discover old friend Solomon Hassan on his doorstep. The latter is on the run from the police, after being accused of a savage killing in Tangiers. The Moroccan authorities want to extradite him, and Spike agrees to travel to Tangiers to delay his extradition… which is how Spike’s troubles really begin. This is an economically written thriller that delivers on every level.

MANLY DAILY, NEW SOUTH WALES – December 14th 2012


Mogford’s Spike Sanguinetti is a wonderful protagonist in Gibraltar and as a tax lawyer is unenthusiastic about investigating murder and intrigue. However, his old school pal Solomon Hassan is in deep trouble fleeing from Morocco, where a young girl was found with her throat cut on a beach. He thinks his pal may be a little sleazy but not a murderer, so he catches the ferry to Tangier. Fantastic location and cultures make this a really good thriller. Mogford uses the divide between the poorest Bedouins and wealthy developers with effect. Rating: **** Maryan Hefferman

THE SPECTATOR – 24 November 2012

Books of the Year 2012

[An] excellent thriller … by [a] rising star … ‘Shadow of the Rock’, the first book by Thomas Mogford (Bloomsbury, £12.99), is partly set on Gibraltar. It’s exciting and assured — with a hero wonderfully called Spike Sanguinetti… Popular fiction at its best. Susan Hill

AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION – Nightlife Book Review, 1st November 2012

Shadow of the Rock
by Thomas Mogford

Mogford read Modern Languages at Oxford University and holds a Postgraduate Diploma in law from City University in London. He also works as a translator and journalist on the UEFA Champions League. He lives with his young family in London and this is his first crime novel.

While following the writer Susan Hill on twitter a while ago the author wrote enthusiastically about Thomas Mogford’s debut thriller – naturally, I had to read it. And it is superb. A new fictional crime hero, Somerset ‘Spike’ Sanguinetti is a tax lawyer dividing his time between Spain, Gibraltar and Tangiers, Morocco. Spike is of Genoese extraction, and fluent in the patois (a combination of Spanish, French, Arabic and Hebrew).

Late one night an old school friend Solomon Hassan, a Sephardic jew turns up on Sanguinetti’s doorstep. He has crossed the straits from Tangiers, claiming that he is wanted for the murder of a rich industrialist’s daughter.

What follows is a cat and mouse game between Gibraltar, Tangiers and a remote Bedouin village in the Sahara Desert. We are not reading about the exotic Tangiers. In this engrossing novel we see the seedier underbelly, especially the slums of ‘Chinatown’ where sinister characters play a dangerous game of secrets, with corruption and lies. Spike also finds love with the mysterious Bedouin girl, Zahra.

An intriguing read, cross-referencing snippets about race, religion, languages and culture, geography and history in Gibraltar and Morocco. And yes, the apes on The Rock, of course.

It is a terrific read, highly intelligent and unputdownable.

Next year, Mogford will publish the sequel ‘Sign of the Cross’. Clare Calvet

Publisher Bloomsbury
Dist Allen & Unwin
Trade paperback
pages 260
$ 32.99


Shadow of the Rock (Bloomsbury, $25), Thomas Mogford’s debut novel, features Gibraltar lawyer Spike Sanguinetti, a tax specialist, taking on a totally different problem when an old friend, Solomon Hassan, is accused of murder in Tangiers. Shadow of the Rock doesn’t feature a lawman swimming against the tide of corruption but rather lawyer who has no experience with criminal law reluctantly becoming involved with a murder case.

Hassan tells Spike that he was seen drinking and arguing with a girl at a Tangier beach bar shortly before she was murdered and left lying on the deserted beach. The girl was his boss’s step-daughter. When Hassan learned that he would be arrested he grabbed his passport and managed to flee from Tangiers to Gibraltar.

Spike agrees to help Hassan only if he agrees to surrender his passport and turn himself in to Gibraltar authorities. Spike then agrees to represent Hassan to try to prevent his extradition to Tangiers—a decision that leads Spike to visit Tangiers and Hassan’s employer, Dunetech.

It doesn’t take long for Spike to realize that Hassan has omitted telling him a great many details about his relations with the murdered woman, Esperanza. Dunetech officials Nadeer Ziyad and security head Toby Riddell offer little help but explain Hassan’s role in the eco-friendly company promising to bring solar energy and new wealth to the entire country.

Spike encounters a disorienting blend of blandishments and cooperation from Dunetech and government officials alike, while at the same time his attempts to learn more about Hassan and Esperanza’s last night in Tangiers leads only to dead alleys. A trip to the Sundowner Club, for instance, the bar where Hassan and Esperanza argued, in turn leads Spike to a beautiful Bedouin woman named Zahra that prompts an attempt to kill one or both of them.

Spike is forced into a world of intrigue where much more than his client’s guilt or innocence is at stake, and he must quickly learn how to survive while surrounded by desert sharks in Mogford’s very promising debut. Robert C. Hahn



Thomas Mogford

Bloomsbury $29.99

LET me introduce you to Thomas Mogford and Spike Sanguinetti. They are both interesting characters, and I’m sure you’ll wish to make their acquaintance.

Mogford is one of those Brits who seems to have packed quite a bit into his short life, leading to early attempts at short fiction in a variety of magazines, then a semi-final spot in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Which all lead to the literary existence of Spike Sanguinetti.

Life as a lawyer in Gibraltar is very busy, if a little unfulfilling. There is always money to be made from clients wanting to take advantage of The Rock’s protected tax status, not to mention the geographic proximity to both Africa and Europe. Spike is a man who is acutely aware of all those invisible lines that can’t be crossed – until one night when he is approached by an old friend who wants to hire him for a different sort of business.

Solomon Hassan is a Sephardic Jew on the run from authorities in Tangiers, just over the Straits, accused of murdering a young Spanish woman. Spike catches the ferry across to check things out as a favour to his friend, and finds more than he bargains for – love, death, corruption and secrets.

Mogford has the ability to give a real sense of place to this exotic locale, which is at least as essential as the wonderfully drawn characters. Already looking forward to the next Spike Sanguinetti tale. VERDICT: GREAT DEBUT OF NEW WRITER, CHARACTER AND LOCALE. Ian Barry

THE OXFORD TIMES – 10th October 2012

Thomas Mogford’s… excellent new novel Shadow of the Rock (Bloomsbury, £12.99), is the first in a planned series featuring Gibraltar-based sleuth Spike Sanguinetti. On a Greek holiday… the gripping adventure proved ideal reading on my first few days in the sunshine. Christopher Gray

MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW – October Issue, 2012

Shadow of the Rock
Thomas Mogford
Walker & Company
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
9780802779991, $25.00,

For a friend, one has to dig through the sands of the Sahara, and the heavy corruption of the people who live in it. “Shadow of the Rock” is a contemporary thriller from Thomas Mogford, follows Lawyer Spike Sanguinetti as he tries to aid his old friend Solomon Hassan through his accusations of murder, trying to stop an extradition. Working with a company called Dunetech to pass a deal, he finds there are few people to trust as he works with the company and finds he doesn’t like what he sees. “Shadow of the Rock” is a must for those seeking a modern thriller that evokes the cities of Northern Africa well, highly recommended.

LITERARY REVIEW – September Issue, 2012

And don’t miss:

‘Shadow of the Rock’  by Thomas Mogford (Bloomsbury 272pp £12.99)

A good start to a promised series featuring Spike Sanguinetti, a Gibraltarian lawyer. He crosses to Tangiers hunting evidence to prevent the extradition of an old friend who is on the run, suspected of murder. Spike gets involved in Moroccan big business and politics, meets a beautiful Bedouin girl, undergoes the almost obligatory torture, and doggedly solves the case. Jessica Mann

BOOKPAGE – 14 August 2012

Grab your geography book and ’fess up that you don’t really know that much about the British colony of Gibraltar, or about the current politics between “The Rock” and its contiguous country, Spain. But Thomas Mogford’s debut crime novel, Shadow of the Rock, sets us straight on all things Gibraltar as he introduces Spike Sanguinetti, a Gibraltarian tax attorney and amateur detective with a strong taste for finding out the truth of a matter.

The attorney’s story takes one exotic turn after another as he travels to the Moroccan city of Tangier, just nine miles away across the Strait of Gibraltar. He’s looking for answers—and a murderer—as his old friend Solomon Hassan sits in a Gibraltar jail, accused of cutting the throat of a Spanish woman, stepdaughter of one of his employers in Tangier. Hassan, presumed guilty, has escaped to Gibraltar, and the authorities in Tangier want him back to stand trial.

Spike seeks information in Tangier from Hassan’s employers at the mysterious but high-flying renewable energy company Dunetech, poised to extend its multi-national control with an enormous solar energy site under construction in the Sahara. The attorney sets out to untangle the web of deceit and corruption at the energy giant. He also traverses the bars and back alleys of the famous Moroccan city, and travels into the desert with a young Bedouin girl, where he encounters the gleaming solar array, not to mention the ancient Bedouin tradition of Bisha’a (a painful lie detection ritual)—to his extreme discomfort.

Mogford assigns a starring role to the politics and locations of this romantic and captivating region, where the exotic locales are the stuff of old Bogart movies. This tightly written, highly readable story needs no car chases or special effects to lure readers into an all-night read. There’s an appealing cast of characters: Dunetech high mucky-mucks Nadeer Ziyad and Ángel Castillo; robed and turbaned Bedouins; a corrupt Tangier bar owner; and Spike’s inventive hotel neighbor, Jean-Baptiste, with his exquisite knowledge of the highways and backways of Tangier. The intriguing chemistry between Spike and a police officer named Jessica will assure her return in upcoming sequels.

Spike will turn your head in this engrossing new series. Attractively, he seems to be free of the quick-comeback, wise-cracking demeanor that mars so many of today’s fast-track detectives. A follow-up novel, The Sign of the Cross, is in the works. Barbara Clark

THE TIMES – 11 August 2012

Thomas Mogford’s Shadow of the Rock is in fact set almost exclusively in Tangier, rather than the Gibraltar that gives the book its title. It all makes it ideal, if rather disturbing, reading if you’re holidaying in Morocco. His hero, the lawyer Spike Sanguinetti, owes his appeal, however, to his well-defined identity as a Gibraltarian of ancient Genoese extraction fluent in the patois and cosmopolitan customs of the mixed-race inhabitants of the controversial colony. When his old school chum Solomon Hassan, another classic Gibraltarian blend of Jewish and North African blood, turns up in his office fleeing accusations of murdering a well-connected Spanish girl on a Tangier beach, Sanguinetti feels obliged to help. His investigations lead him to a Moroccan strip club and an exotic Bedouin girl whose father disappeared after arguing with an international conglomerate building mammoth solar power plants in the desert. Sanguinetti soon comes to doubt whom he can trust in a corrupt and distrustful world of tribal customs, double-dealing and casual violence in the exotic setting of the most worldly city in the Maghreb. Evocative, engrossing and entertaining. Peter Millar

SHOTS MAG – August 2012

When Gibraltarian tax lawyer Spike Sanguinetti finds old school friend Solomon Hassan on his doorstep asking for help, it’s not quite the help he’s accustomed to giving. Hassan has been accused of murder in Tangiers, and the Moroccan authorities want to extradite him to stand trial, without bothering to look too hard for a culprit. Furthermore, the victim is a young woman, with her throat cut – and Solomon admits to having been with her just before she died.

Spike travels to Tangiers in an attempt to delay extradition, on the grounds that his friend, who is Jewish, will not last long in a Moroccan jail. But really he’s there to probe into what happened.

He soon discovers that things are a whole lot more complex – and dangerous – than he thought, and that Solomon hasn’t been entirely frank with him. In no time at all, he’s trawling through seedy Tangiers nightclubs and the coastal strip known as The Gut, trying to find where the murder trail began and ended, and following a beautiful young Bedouin girl named Zahra into the shadowy and lethal confines of a bidonville (shanty town), in an attempt to unravel what really happened.

Catching up with Zahra soon makes Spike forget the dangers, however, and she tells him she is trying to find out what happened to her father, a village elder, who has disappeared.

Throw in some shady land deals surrounding a Green Energy scam, with lots of Euros involved, as well as people in high places, and danger is soon buzzing around Spike’s head like sandflies on heat.

Thomas Mogford paints a realistic picture of Gibraltar and its varied cultures, with particular attention to the ‘local’ rather than the British elements on the Rock, while weaving an intriguing and fast-paced tale. Although much of the action takes place in the streets and back alleys of Tangiers, peopled by businessmen on the make, the sans-papiers – illegals living hand-to-mouth while dreaming of getting into Europe – and the ever-present shadow of criminality stretching from the gutters to the very highest parts of society, there’s a clear image of the two worlds on either side of the Straits, and Spike’s attempts to tread a delicate path between them.

More PI than lawyer, Spike Sanguinetti is a likeable and engaging character, quite able (even accidentally) of getting his hands dirty if necessary. He also has an eye for a beautiful girl, especially one in distress.

With plenty of tension and action, and a vividly portrayed background with an engaging cast of ‘regulars’, this looks like the start of a very attractive series. And if you’ve never been to Gibraltar, and want to go somewhere unusual and interesting, this novel might tempt you to go. Adrian Magson


Debut of the Month – Shadow of the Rock: A Spike Sanguinetti Novel

Starred Review

Mogford, Thomas. Walker. Aug.2012. c.272p. ISBN 9780802779991. $25.

Gibraltar tax attorney Spike Sanguinetti agrees to help childhood schoolmate Solomon Hassan fight extradition to Morocco when Solomon is accused of murdering his boss’s stepdaughter, Esperanza, in Tangiers. Being Jewish, Solomon fled the country because he is convinced the Moroccans will happily convict him. Spike travels to Tangiers, where he finds the authorities less than cooperative and Solomon’s employer, a solar power company called Dunetech, most sinister. After a harrowing night, Spike tracks down Zahra, a Bedouin woman who knew Esperanza and suspects Dunetech had something to do with her death since the company covets the Bedouin lands. Spike manages to find enough allies to save his life, and along the way, he achieves some justice for those who need it most. VERDICT: Guns, grit, and torture: this breathtaking debut runs through the shifting sands with aplomb. Mogford’s exotic locales, gorgeous prose, and closing twist make this debut a showstopper. Teresa L. Jacobsen

BOOKLIST – July 2012

Shadow of the Rock.

Mogford, Thomas (Author)

Aug 2012. 272 p. Walker, hardcover, $25.00. (9780802779991).

International-crime-fiction fans looking for a new setting will find exactly what they seek in this engaging tale starring a melancholy lawyer in Gibraltar. Spike Sanguinetti, a native Gibraltarian, practices tax law, a lucrative business on the Rock, a tax haven straddling Africa and Europe, but he’s bored with the work and worn down from nursing his ailing father. Then an old friend, Solomon Hassan, turns up on Spike’s doorstep, on the run from a murder charge in Tangier. Spike agrees to help stall Hassan’s extradition from Gibraltar, but when he starts asking questions, he finds far more than a simple crime of passion. Hassan’s employer is a renewable-energy company about to sign a multimillionaire-dollar deal in Tangier, and a Bedouin woman who knew the murder victim is convinced the company has something to hide—something important enough to prompt murder. Mogford mixes three fascinating settings—the melting pot of Gibraltar, the teeming backstreets of Tangier, and the remote villages that are home to Bedouins—and, in the process, produces a crime novel rich in atmosphere and human conflict. Put this series on your radar. — Bill Ott


Shadow of the Rock

Thomas Mogford. Walker, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8027-7999-1

British author Mogford’s intriguing debut, the first in a new series set in Gibraltar and Morocco, introduces Spike Sanguinetti, a tax lawyer turned detective. One night in Gibraltar’s Old Town, Spike runs into an old school friend, Sephardic Jew Solomon Hassan, who needs his help. Spike reluctantly agrees to represent Solomon in fighting extradition to Morocco, where Solomon is wanted for the murder of Esperanza Castillo, the tattooed, multipierced, promiscuous stepdaughter of Ángel Castillo, cofounder of a new solar energy venture that promises billions of euros in potential revenues. In Morocco, Spike meets Insp. Hakim Eldrassi of the Tangiers police, who’s confident Solomon is guilty, but Spike knows Solomon is incapable of murder. Spike later discovers that the key to the crime may lie with Zahra, a Bedouin waitress at the last place Esperanza was seen alive. Fans of mysteries set in exotic locales are in for a treat. Agent: Greene & Heaton Ltd. (Aug.)

‘Sleeping Dogs’ Reviews

 INDIAN EXPRESS – 23rd July 2016
Who let the Dogs Out?

Mogford is amongst a growing tribe of Mediterranean crime writers whose works are reaching distant shores to universal acclaim.

Prose as pretty as a Tuscan villa, compelling side characters and, of course, a troubled protagonist, are enough reasons to add this to your reading list.

Sleeping Dogs
Author: Thomas Mogford
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 256
Price: 399

Corfu, the Greek island immortalised by Gerald Durrell in his “family” series, is culturally synonymous with an idyllic paradise just waiting to be experienced. So then, why is Spike Sanguinetti, lawyer from Gibraltar, not enjoying his vacation there?

The latest book to feature the sanguine lawyer, sees Sanguinetti still traumatised by the events of the previous books (murdered women and more). Plus, his business is flagging, his father’s Marfan Syndrome is worsening and he’s also become the part-time guardian of an orphaned toddler. A vacation sounds just the thing. Of course, as soon he reaches, the penny, or rather, the drachma, drops — the brutalised corpse of an Albanian émigré is found on a beach and Sanguinetti is coaxed into taking the case (pro bono, worse luck).

And, as it usually turns out, things are nothing like they seem. Mogford is amongst a growing tribe of Mediterranean crime writers whose works are reaching distant shores to universal acclaim. Prose as pretty as a Tuscan villa, compelling side characters and, of course, a troubled protagonist, are enough reasons to add this to your reading list Shantanu David

EURO CRIME – 12th October 2015

Sleeping Dogs by Thomas Mogford, April 2015, 256 pages, Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN: 1408846616

The city of Saranda curved around its amphitheatre-shaped bay. The concrete blur only hazily visible from Corfu now resolved into Soviet-era tower blocks, a low port complex, a few stunted palm trees embedded along the sandy beach.

Kavos, Corfu.
The girl thrusts her things into a bag and nervously checks the window. This is when the door to her room bursts open

With his law partner, Peter Galliano, on long-term sick leave and the firm struggling financially, lawyer Spike Sanguinetti sits in the psychiatrist’s office reluctant to discuss his insomnia and panic attacks. He doesn’t even manage the allotted hour. As he leaves, the therapist reminds him that his problems won’t just “go away”. At home that night, babysitting the young, grieving son of his dead lover, he finds his elderly father rocking the boy on his lap, soothing his night terrors.

By way of a much needed break, Spike’s father has insisted on their going ahead with their pre-arranged stay with Peter Galliano at his home on Corfu’s northern coast. Their friendly driver names the villa-owning billionaires of the region, not least the media mogul Sir Leo Hoffmann whose estate borders Peter’s home. A warm greeting and an idyllic evening drink on Peter’s terrace is interrupted by the arrival of Spike’s ex-girlfriend, Gibraltar Police detective Jessica Navarro, another of his father’s surprises and a jolt for them both. Their awkwardness eases over the meal cooked by Katarina, Peter’s housekeeper. The view of the Albanian coast across the Corfu Channel prompts Katarina to describe how her husband swam across the channel to escape that country’s Communist regime. They met, married, and had two sons, but her husband died ten years ago and is buried back in Albania. Towards the end of the evening Peter tells them that everyone has been invited to the Phaeacian Games on the Hoffmann estate tomorrow, a celebration inspired by Sir Leo’s passion for Ancient Greek history and archaeology. Spike decides on another bottle of wine and in the kitchen interrupts an irritable quarrel between Katarina’s son Lakis and Arben, the handsome young Albanian who accompanied Jessica to the house tonight. Arben comments on Spike’s blue eyes, an evil omen in his native Albania …

Sometimes you just want to plunge head first into a short, sharp thriller; one that keeps your attention from start to finish and – if you share my taste for crime in faraway places – paints a vivid picture of its setting and characters. This is just what Thomas Mogford, ex-journalist and translator, provides in SLEEPING DOGS. His fourth Spike Sanguinetti novel sees Gibraltarian lawyer Spike, burnt out and broke, holidaying with his law partner Peter in Corfu. During a grand soiree at the neighbouring villa, celebrating the archaeological finds of its owner billionaire media mogul Sir Leo Hoffmann, more than the statues of the title’s Sleeping Dogs are revealed in the caves below; the dead body of a young Albanian leads to the arrest of another young man for murder. Spike is called in to provide legal help and the story escalates into the pursuit of a missing witness and the murderous terror of vendetta.

This Corfu-set episode stands up to reading without “prior knowledge” of the previous three Sanguinetti books. Its short, sharp chapters pick up increasing pace as the story weaves between the terrified flight of a young woman from Corfu to her native Albania and Spike and Jessica’s attempts to find the real killer of a murdered man. With a peppery mix of young and old, the mega-rich and the working locals, and the contrasts of Corfu and Albania, this is a well constructed, entertaining and accessible thriller. Lynn Harvey

SHELF AWARENESS – 17th July 2015

Gibraltarian lawyer Spike Sanguinetti, plagued by nightmares after the death of his lover, decides to visit his friend and law partner Peter Galliano, who is recuperating from a hit-and-run at his family’s vacation home on Corfu. To Spike’s surprise and initial discomfort, Peter has also invited Spike’s former flame Jessica Navarro, who was recently promoted to detective sergeant in the Gibraltarian police.

For Spike and Jessica, Corfu loses its idyllic aura when the body of an Albanian man is found on the Hoffmann estate, next door to Peter’s house. When one of Peter’s employees is arrested for the murder, he begs Spike to represent Lakis pro bono. Spike, unable to resist the plea of his injured friend, takes on Lakis’s case, in spite of pressure from the wealthy Hoffmann family to hurry matters along.

As Spike and Jessica dig into the events surrounding the murder, they discover that beneath the cheerful, quotidian Greek culture are family vendettas and political corruption. As the clues lead them across Corfu and into Albania, Spike and Jessica end up putting their own lives on the line in their quest for truth.

Dividing its time among several unusual mystery settings–Gibraltar, Corfu and Albania–Sleeping Dogs makes for a captivating Mediterranean read. In exploring the dark legacy of Albanian Communism, Corfu’s turbulent history and Spike’s own tortured memories, Thomas Mogford (Hollow Mountain) has created a deliciously atmospheric novel that belies its bright and sunny settings. Jessica Howard

Discover: Gibraltarian lawyer Spike Sanguinetti is on vacation in Corfu, but murder seems to follow him wherever he goes.

Bloomsbury, $26

CRIME REVIEW – 20 June 2015

Spike Sanguinetti takes a holiday in Corfu but finds himself involved in a murder, followed by a very dangerous trip to Albania.

Lawyer Spike Sanguinetti has had three previous adventures, all of which played out with substantial periods in his home of Gibraltar. In his latest outing he is exclusively in Corfu for a much-needed break, at the holiday home of Peter Galliano, Spike’s legal partner. Keeping him company is his ailing father Rufus, and Jessica Navarro, a beautiful policewoman.

The group visits the adjoining luxurious Hoffman estate for a party, which breaks up in disarray when a young man, Arben, is found stabbed, dead. Arben is working for the Hoffmans and is from nearby Albania, as are Peter’s domestic staff, Katerina and her sons Lakis and Spiros. Peter and his guests are stunned when Lakis is arrested the next day for Arben’s murder, his fingerprints on the weapon discovered in his room.

Spike is roped in to help, and Lakis tells him of a witness, Calypso, who can establish an alibi. Spike and Jessica find where she has been living but the girl has gone, leaving signs of a struggle. Soon after, Lakis is gunned down while being moved, revenge by Arben’s family and a matter of vendetta. This can extend to Spiros too when he becomes of age, unless Spike can find Calypso and have her convince Arben’s family that Lakis was not the culprit.

As with previous books in the series, Sleeping Dogs is full of varied characters. Some of these we have met before, although we find out more about Rufus and Peter, and Jessica has been elevated from an old flame to Spike’s current romantic interest. The Hoffmans are briskly sketched out as a super-rich dynasty with plenty of internal strife, and Katerina and family as sympathetic but vulnerable.

The series has hitherto always featured interesting locations: here we get a taste of Corfu and Albania, to the uninformed surprisingly close. Albania is not necessarily an agreeable holiday destination, but provides a very challenging environment for the protagonists to demonstrate their mettle, especially where they find it necessary to visit a village devoted to the production of cannabis, where the locals are very serious people.

The book is densely plotted and with plenty of action and short chapters to propel the reader on. Spike and Jessica do all you could expect of your lead characters, but have no special skills except for quick minds and a preparedness to do the right thing. Despite the stress which inspired the Corfu trip, Spike shows signs of adopting a more ordered life. Whether he will be able to settle and still provide the thrills we have come to expect of him will be interesting to see. Chris Roberts

SHOTS MAG – 14 June 2015

Sleeping Dogs is a popular title for novels, if not a standout one (this is the second book Shots has reviewed with this title in less than a year). Good title or not, this Sleeping Dogs gets a big Shots Woof! Woof, woof, woof.

The fourth installment in the Spike Sanguinetti Gibraltar-set series, this one allows our fearless lawyer to travel to several southern European destinations (with a population of 30,000, Gibraltar could become Midsomer-level dangerous if all the books took place there). In this instance, Sanguinetti finds himself detecting and holidaying in Corfu. Dastardly deeds in a beautiful setting has been done, oh a few zillion times at least, but this one sticks in the mind.

Brevity and precision are Mogford’s strong suits. Sleeping Dogs, at a trim 238 pages, tells its story with clarity and detail, there is no padding or fluff. And this befits Sanguinetti, a driven lawyer who lives with his father on the Rock, where old girlfriends dead and living haunt his days and financial troubles nip at his heels. In Sleeping Dogs, he takes a holiday with his father and yes, ex-lover Jessica Navarro, near the palatial manse of Leo Hoffmann, a Rupert Murdoch-style media magnate. On arrival, Spike is struck by the friendly relations between upstairs and downstairs, the zillionaires mingling easily with the local staff.

Maybe not so friendly, he learns, when the body of Albanian factotum Arben Avdia is discovered not far from the setting of a huge Hoffmann bash. Not long afterwards, Lakis Demollari, a driver for the Hoffmanns, is also killed. As Spike and Jessica work to uncover the truth behind the young man’s death, they discover a Brit-Albanian-Greek melting pot not nearly as harmonious as it seems. The febrile atmosphere is heightened by master and servant disparities, ethnic tensions and the availability and usage of recreational drugs.

Linking up with Jessica (in more ways than one), Spike ploughs along a trail of drug dealing and people smuggling to nail Arben’s and Lakis’s real murderer. The recounting of their quest is interspersed with elements of a story told by a woman called Calypso.

The story is a pertinent one, taking on some of the major ironies of the 28-member European Union. Commenting on the poor quality of Corfu’s toilet flushes, one character quips that “no country should get to stay in the EU if their plumbing cannot handle some s**y Andrex.” That line sums up the mish-mash Spike confronts – nationals who must work together but don’t always understand one another’s customs or quirks.

The beauty of Sleeping Dogs is the detail Mogford uses to provide believability. His novels are unique in that people eat and he tells us what they eat (my tummy rumbled more than once at the descriptions of delicious Greek meals). He zeroes in on Spike’s struggles with tobacco addiction, including vaping (again, familiar territory for this reviewer). He talks about the weather, describes pubs and bars, shares Spike’s aches and pains. This is cinema vérité in book form , specific and modern with little superfluous description. Likewise, short chapters allow the story to sprint along and the reader to keep pace over the short time frame of the murders and investigations.

I’ve read two of these books and feel I know Spike and like him. I’m rooting for him to fall in love with a good woman (ha!), to overcome his physical pains and achieve financial success. I’m not hopeful all this will come about but I am keen to read the next book in the series. Judith Sullivan

CRIMEPIECES – 7 May 2015

Thomas 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 Hoffmann family. When the son of his host’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. Sarah Ward


In his fourth adventure, the Gibraltarian lawyer Spike Sanguinetti goes on holiday to one of the world’s most beautiful (and my own favourite) places – the corner of northeast Corfu sometimes called ‘South Kensington on Sea’. The British have competition these days, in particular from Russian visitors, and it is not as easy as it used to be for rich holiday-makers to ignore the difficult circumstances in which the locals, mostly Greek but also Albanians from across the narrow strait, are living. Sanguinetti and his companions – his father, his partner in a two-man law firm and his about-to-be girlfriend – get involved when the son of their host’s Albanian housekeeper is accused of murder. The story is solidly credible, but it is the setting that is most enjoyable, vividly realised and full of reminders that the olive-clad land and the translucent sea have been the scene of battles and crimes, and will be again. Jessica Mann

BOOKLIST – May 2015

Mogford’s fine series, set in Gibraltar and starring lawyer Spike Sanguinetti, alternates between adventures taking place on the Rock itself—a spectacular setting for crime fiction, both for its insular nature and for its amalgam of African and European influences—and in various, nearly as atmospheric Mediterranean settings nearby. This time it‘s Corfu, where the ever-brooding Sanguinetti, still bemoaning the tragedy he failed to prevent in Hollow Mountain (2014), repairs with his ex-girlfriend, policewoman Jessica Navarro, for a little R&R. Both Rs prove in short supply, as they become involved with amateur archaeologist Leo Hoffmann and are thrust into another murder investigation, this time of a young Albanian killed on Hoffmann’s property. It’s easy to say that novels set in stunning locales project vivid senses of place, but Mogford goes further than that: he uses his settings for not only their beauty and atmosphere but also the multicultural richness they support in the characters and the plot. This series belongs on the reading lists of everyone who cares about international crime fiction, especially those willing to leave the chill of Scandinavia every now and then.— Bill Ott

SUNDAY EXPRESS – 26rd April 2015

The Best Crime Books April 2015

Sleeping Dogs by Thomas Mogford (Bloomsbury, £12.99)

Mogford’s books featuring Spike Sanguinetti, a lawyer-cum-detective living in Gibraltar, comprise one of the most enjoyable crime series of recent years.

For Spike’s fourth adventure, the criminal possibilities of “a rock the size of Hyde Park” have clearly been exhausted and so he is off on holiday to an area of Corfu so full of well-heeled Brits it’s been christened Kensington-on-Sea. And the unexpected arrival of his ex-girlfriend is not the worst thing Spike has to contend with when a corpse inevitably turns up to spoil the idyllic surroundings. Jake Kerridge

BOOK OXYGEN – 23rd April 2015

Thomas Mogford is another writer with an interesting take on men and their search for love.  His detective is Spike Sanguinetti, a Gibraltarian lawyer, who was introduced to the public in Shadow of the Rock.  Unmarried, with tragic love affairs behind him, responsibility for an increasingly demented father and an orphaned boy, Sanguinetti is a highly attractive character.  In Sleeping Dogs he and his father are taking a holiday with his business partner in Corfu, and the novel is full of ravishing views, delectable food and punishing retsina.  The action takes Spike and his latest love interest over to the Albanian mainland, where organized crime and tribal vendetta ratchet up the narrative tension.  Intelligently written and witty, Sleeping Dogs would be perfect reading on a terrace above the Ionian sea, surrounded by the scent of wild thyme, and with a dewy glass of ice-cold fizz at your side. N.J. Cooper

THE OXFORD TIMES – 23rd April 2015

Thomas Mogford is known for a successful series of novels featuring the Gibraltar-based lawyer and sleuth Spike Sanguinetti (his name reflecting the Genoese background of many on the Rock).

The books are notable for taut action described in fluent, polished prose, with a vivid sense of place and shrewd psychological observation, particularly where the love life of the strapping, blue-eyed thirty-something hero is concerned.

Sleeping Dogs (Bloomsbury, £12.99) is the fourth in the series and, in my view, the best to date. In it, Spike continues his fictional odyssey that has ranged from Gibraltar through Tangier, Malta, Genoa and now to Corfu.

Amid the olive groves and sandy beaches of the holiday island – specifically those of the north-east corner where mighty magnates dwell –, Spike becomes involved in a murder case that brings bloody repercussions with the mafia drug barons of neighbouring Albania.

As one familiar with the places described, in Corfu at least, I read with admiration a fine evocation of the scenery I first encountered in 1973, so very different then in the case of tourist hells like Ipsos and Kavos.

That my reading was being done in Greece, on an island some way distant from the Ionian group, brought added enjoyment.

Thomas excels when he moves to the subject of food. And so, appetite whetted by what he says of the varied appetisers, the rich stews, the sticky puddings, I was lucky enough to go straight out to eat some. Christopher Gray

KIRKUS REVIEWS – 16th April 2015

A high-powered Gibraltarian lawyer cuts short an idyllic vacation to defend a hapless man accused of a brutal murder.

Overworked attorney and sometime sleuth Spike Sanguinetti (Hollow Mountain, 2014, etc.) suffers panic attacks, largely related to the death of his ex, Zahra, three years ago. When his doctor and friend Kitty Gonzalez prescribes a getaway, Corfu turns out to be just what the doctor ordered for Spike and his elderly dad, Rufus. Their getaway estate is next door to that of media mogul Sir Leo Hoffmann, and before long they’re rubbing elbows with the wealthy philanthropist. As Spike’s odyssey unfolds, it’s counterpointed by short glimpses of the imperilment and presumed death of a young woman named Calypso. The colorful characters arriving to fill out the company include Spike’s colleague Peter Galliano and DS Jessica Navarro, Spike’s old flame, who kindles his ardor anew. While exploring a local cave with the others, Spike discovers the bludgeoned body of Arben, an Albanian who works for Hoffmann. Lakis, a Greek who first greeted Spike and Rufus on their arrival and tended them at the guesthouse, is arrested for the murder after the police learn that he and Arben had been arguing earlier. Spike, who has taken a liking to the helpful Lakis, instinctively rushes to his defense. He begins to investigate, with Jessica playing Nora to his Nick. And how does Calypso fit into it all?

The first half of Spike’s fourth rolls slowly. Once its focus shifts to treating its fully drawn characters as suspects, however, it has the satisfying flavor of a classic whodunit.

CRIME FICTION LOVER – 13th April 2015

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

Gibraltarian lawyer Spike Sanguinetti is back for a fourth book in this series by Thomas Mogford. Following the violent events of the previous book, Hollow Mountain, Spike is in Corfu to meet up with his legal partner Peter Galliano. He’s taken his curmudgeonly father Rufus and his sometimes girlfriend detective Jessica Navarro with him.

The serenity they’re enjoying at a beautiful location on the north-east coast of the island is soon disrupted by a murder on the adjacent estate of millionaire Sir Leo Hoffman. With a local man falsely accused of the crime, Spike unwittingly becomes involved in a case hinging on the testimony of an elusive Albanian girl who is in fear for her life. As the action pivots between Corfu and Albania, Spike and Jessica race against time to catch a killer.

Although Spike himself is dealing with his own feelings of loss and insecurity after the death of his lover in a previous story, his strong moral core means he’s unable to turn his back on the fate of an innocent man or his friend Peter, who is emotionally invested in the case.

A stand out feature of Mogford’s writing is the wry and easy humour of his characters. The book is peppered with amusing asides, and Mogford cannot resist a few cutting sideswipes at the idle rich, who are personified by Leo Hoffman, and his children, as he plays lord of the manor in foreign climes. The dialogue feels natural and reflective, and there is an assured balance between the lighter and darker aspects of Spike’s psychological make-up. He has proven to be an incredibly empathetic character throughout the series to date.

Previous books have taken us from Gibraltar to Italy and Malta, and Mogford appears to have researched his locations very well. He comfortably paints a picture for us of the tranquility of the Greek coast then immerses us in the moral deprivation of popular holiday resort Kavos. Sleeping Dogs weaves in little snippets of pertinent information about local customs and socio-political mores, and this is especially vital to the plot when the action moves to Albania. Spike and Jessica find themselves at the whim of local superstitions and practices, which seem strange to them. This adds to the interest without over complicating the storyline and what unfolds is precisely written and engaging.

The tight plotting means that no single strand of the story is overplayed, though this is a relatively short crime novel. The investigation takes several twists and turns along the way, which keeps a heightened sense of engagement and, more importantly, keeps us rooting for Spike to clear the accused man’s name and catch the real culprit. An excellent read. Raven Crime

‘A Thousand Cuts’ Reviews


THE SUNDAY TIMES – 12th February 2017

The long-term impact of conflict is central to A Thousand Cuts (Bloomsbury £12.99), the latest in Thomas Mogford’s fine series of crime novels set in Gibraltar. His protagonist, Spike Sanguinetti, is an introspective lawyer whose habit of helping waifs and strays means his practice isn’t exactly thriving. In the new book, he takes on a particularly unappealing client, an alcoholic accused of harassing a local GP, and is reluctantly drawn into investigating the man’s troubled history. It seems to be connected with an incident in 1940, when a bomb was planted in the Rock’s naval dockyard and two British servicemen died in the blast.

A young Spaniard, who was known to have connections with supporters of Franco and Hitler, was tried and hanged. Sanguinetti begins to think the man was framed but his inquiries are interrupted by a series of brutal murders, one of them targeting the owner of his favourite restaurant. Gibraltar is a small place and Sanguinetti finds himself with a number of elderly suspects, including a close friend of his family. This is a traditional and thoroughly satisfying crime novel. Joan Smith

SHOTS MAG – 14th February 2017

This is the fifth of Thomas Mogford’s mysteries based in Gibraltar and featuring the lawyer Spike Sanguinetti. The story and the central character come bearing a certain amount of baggage from previous books but A Thousand Cuts stands easily and readably by itself.

A prologue set in April 1940 details an act of sabotage in the Gibraltar Dockyard and the death of two Navy personnel. For this crime a Spanish dockyard worker is hanged. Many years later Spike acts as defence lawyer for the dead man’s son, Christopher Massetti, who’s up on a charge of harassing a Gibraltar GP.

Massetti is a far from ideal client. Alcoholic and monosyllabic, he starts off by literally attacking Spike. All the same, Sanguinetti feels a reluctant responsibility for this seemingly incapable old man and gets caught up in the quest to get to the truth of the crime which resulted in the execution of his father. Along the way the lawyer finds himself unwillingly embroiled in a serious conflict of interest – and more important of emotion – between his oldest friend and his pregnant partner, Jessica, who happens to be a member of the Rock’s police force. What begins as a minor harassment case escalates to a couple of apparently meaningless murders. It’s not giving too much away to say that everything is tied back to that initial act of sabotage in a wartime dockyard.

As a setting Gibraltar, with its population of 30,000 is somewhere in size between Miss Marple’s St Mary Mead and a proper throbbing metropolis. Yet it’s surprising what mileage Thomas Mogford can get out of this limited yet curiously exotic background, with its odd mixture of British and Spanish, together with a dash of Africa. The wartime seeds of A Thousand Cuts are genuinely interesting, showing the tensions between the Gibraltarians and British servicemen, to say nothing of the ever-present threat of spies and saboteurs crossing over from Franco’s not-so-neutral Spain. The mystery is important but doesn’t overshadow the human elements and you’ll find yourself caught up in the quiet drama of Spike’s family life and even in the details of his prospective move. Recommended. Philip Gooden

THE OXFORD TIMES – 23rd February 2017

Richard Jones gets stuck into the latest in a series featuring a maverick lawyer in Gibraltar.
A deadly explosion in Gibraltar’s dry dockyard was never going to divert attention from the Battle of Britain and the few defending the many in their balletic aerial battles witnessed by a never-say-die generation. But this seemingly innocuous blip on the Second World War radar comes back to haunt the dying embers of this generation on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula. Having had his sojourn to Corfu ruined by marijuana dealing mafiosi, Spike returns in the fifth instalment of the Sanguinetti mysteries with thoughts of belated domesticity. But he is soon embroiled in a series of unexplained murders whose victims have links back to the socio-political melting pot of cross-border collaboration between fascist sympathizers and misguided locals. Recently released MI5 papers give the plot added legitimacy and cast a spotlight on the seemingly dispensable status of the inhabitants of this former Moorish outpost to the overall war effort. Oxford-educated Thomas Mogford continues to develop Sanguinetti as an emotionally flawed personality, whose black and white approach in his professional life does not always translate into emotional characteristics best suited to the longevity of his personal relationships. Jessica is his long-suffering partner whose feminine touch brings out a more sensitive Spike, but as the body count increases, and the prime suspect tests deep-seated family loyalties, his professional and personal lives inevitably become compromised. The pace and syntax of the plot leaves you piecing together the clues in a virtual jigsaw that moves you from the dark days of the monochrome 1940’s to the gaming-inspired technology of the 21st century, but it’s the common thread of death and injustice that truly adds the colour to Sanguinetti’s investigation. The final act is more Shakespearean tragedy than contemporary climax, but this juxtaposition of the old and new is a TV adaptation waiting to happen.

GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER – 27th February 2017

There is always a faint tingling of the spine when, having read a book I have been meaning to get around to for ages, I immediately pick up a newly-published one which covers similar territory and themes. I am not, I hasten to say, implying any form of plagiarism, merely flagging up a curious coincidence, in fact the double coincidence which I experienced last month. Far better known as an actor than a writer, (Sir) Anthony Quayle wrote two thrillers based on his personal wartime experiences: Eight Hours From England (1945), which drew on his time as an undercover SOE (Special Operations Executive) agent in Albania in 1942, and On Such A Night (1947) which was clearly inspired by his service as an Aide to the Governor of Gibraltar in 1943. On Such A Night is set on an ‘island fortress’ in the Mediterranean called Pelleria which bears a remarkable resemblance to Gibraltar during WWII (even down to the same street names) and at one point involves an explosion in the naval dockyards there. Having finally got around to reading it, I then turned to the new novel by Thomas Mogford, A Thousand Cuts, out now from Bloomsbury, which is set on Gibraltar in the present day but which has a back story dating to the wartime period and involves and explosion in a naval dockyard. There the similarities end (Mogford is a much better writer for one thing, though probably a worse actor), and I have always had a sneaking admiration for Spike Sanguinetti, Mogford’s lawyer hero who is Gibraltar-based but familiar with all the islands and ports washed by the Mediterranean. A Thousand Cuts begins as a court room mystery, with Spike defending a particularly unpleasant character, and develops into an intriguing thriller centred on the fate of Spanish spy executed by the British in 1940 and as a bonus we get the ongoing story of Spike’s family and a wonderful sense of life on ‘the Rock’ which can be both an island paradise and the most claustrophobic example of a Little England. The whole series is highly recommended and this latest shows Mogford at his cleverest. Mike Ripley

CRIME REVIEW – 29th April 2017

Spike Sanguinetti and his partner Peter run a small law firm in Gibraltar; Peter is keen to attract lucrative corporate work but Spike still does the odd criminal case. He is asked to defend Massetti, a man in court on assault charges. The accusation is withdrawn, but when a few days later the alcoholic Massetti is discharged from hospital, it seems Spike is the only one available to see him home.

While there, he finds newspaper cuttings relating to Massetti’s father, executed in 1940 following sabotage at the dockyard in which two British naval officers were killed. Those behind the action saw themselves as making ‘Mil Cortes’, a thousand cuts, small acts of resistance to British domination. Two people somehow involved with the group are well-known to Spike: Marcela, a local restaurant owner, and Sir Anthony Stanford-Trench, who acted as a surrogate father to Spike and whose son Drew was a childhood friend.

Spike does more research but has only partially uncovered the history when a series of shocking deaths suggest that someone is trying to eliminate anyone left alive from the time of the dockyard sabotage. Massetti is the obvious culprit, but CCTV shows him crossing the border to Spain, giving him an alibi. A diary anonymously sent to Spike suggests another with much to conceal: Sir Anthony. Spike has some difficult choices to make.

This, the fifth adventure for Sanguinetti, takes place entirely within Gibraltar. The Rock continues to appeal as a backdrop for events; a unique and exotic mix of races, language and culture with a substantial dollop of prosaic England thrown in. Spike as usual finds it difficult to resist the appeals made to his good nature, and gets into a good deal of trouble, but has the right stuff to carry him through. He comes across as a man with perhaps too much of a conscience for his own good.

Spike starts the book living in a poky flat with his eccentric father Rufus, his policewoman fiancée Jessica, and their adopted son Charlie. Jessica is pregnant and home life is as good as it gets for Spike, although they need larger accommodation – nothing they look at feels suitable – and he seems to carry a permanent sense of guilt about the lack of time he spends with his family.

As with previous books in the series, Thomas Mogford blends a number of plot lines together to make a book full of action. Spike’s unravelling of the wartime story, his cynicism about Drew and his political ambitions, his suspicions about his business partner and his concerns about his family are all woven into a compelling tale. The tension builds steadily to a great climax, making it very difficult to put down. Chris Roberts

BOOKLIST –May 2017

Bloomsbury, hardcover, $29.00.

The melancholy that has been hanging heavily on lawyer Spike Sanguinetti’s shoulders through four episodes in Mogford’s richly atmospheric, Gibraltar-set series appears to be lifting. He is engaged to policewoman Jessica Navarro, who is pregnant with the couple’s child, and while Spike is concerned about balancing his new responsibilities as husband and father with his ongoing role as caregiver to his own father, he is determined to look toward a happier future. Until the past intrudes again, this time in the form of an unsolved murder stretching back to 1940. Jumping between the present and wartime Gibraltar, Mogford unspools an intricate tale concerning Gibraltarian nationalists struggling to free themselves of British domination, even as the Nazis turn their eyes toward the strategic advantages of occupying a peninsula that almost bridges Europe and Africa. Throughout the series, Mogford has explored the multicultural tensions that define contemporary Gibraltar, and this time he ups the ante by adding a fascinating historical layer to that ambiguity-drenched cultural stew. Sanguinetti, naturally, feels caught in the middle as the riptide of present and past threaten to engulf him and those he loves. An essential international crime series.— Bill Ott


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. Giles Morgan

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


A Thousand Cuts
Thomas Mogford
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781632868459, $29.00, HC, 368pp,

Back in 1940, a bomb exploded killing two British soldiers patrolling the Gibraltar dockyards. A Spaniard was executed for the crime, yet protests his innocence to the very last. In the present day, Spike Sanguinetti finds himself defending the violent and alcoholic Christopher Massetti in a harassment case brought against him by the wealthy and respected Dr. Eloise Capurro. Yet the case isn’t as cut-and-dried as it first seems and Massetti walks free. Only days later, Dr. Capurro leaps to her death from a blazing house fire before Sanguinetti’s very eyes. Sanguinetti spots someone else watching, someone hiding in the shadows. Massetti. The further Sanguinetti investigates, the more secrets buried deep in Gibraltar’s past he uncovers, and they lead him to the doors of some of the most powerful people in town. People dangerously close to his own life and fragile happiness. Loyalties are tested to the very limit. “A Thousand Cuts” is another riveting novel from Thomas Mogford and showcases his genuine flair for originality and the creation of memorable characters embedded in a compelling story. While very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that “A Thousand Cuts” is also available in a digital book format ($6.15).

CRIMINAL ELEMENT– August 25th 2017

A Thousand Cuts by Thomas Mogford is the fifth Spike Sanguinetti novel, where a fatal explosion in the past and a series of brutal murders in the present question whether justice is being served for betrayals long hidden.

A Thousand Cuts, the fifth entry in Thomas Mogford’s Spike Sanguinetti series, offers readers a nuanced, multilayered narrative that shifts constantly while somehow retaining an overall balance between its elements. Coming in at a little over 350 pages, A Thousand Cuts is a satisfying read that offers something for fans of legal thrillers, history buffs, straight crime lovers, and mysteries.

Back in 1940, a bomb went off in Gibraltar, killing two British soldiers who were patrolling the dockyards that night. After a short investigation, a Spaniard was executed for the crime. Although the man spent time with the wrong crowd, he claimed to be innocent until his execution.

Fast-forward to the present day when Spike Sanguinetti is thrown into the defense of Christopher Massetti, a quiet man who’s also a violent alcoholic. Massetti has been charged with harassing Dr. Eloise Capurro and her recently deceased husband. From the start, the case is not what it seems. Dr. Capurro is either confused or lying, and whatever brought Massetti to visit Capurro’s husband at the hospital before his death is a mystery. The case ends shockingly fast, and Massetti walks free. But days later, Capurro is dead, and the real trouble begins. What follows is a tense story of hidden agendas, family secrets, and murder that also serves as an exploration of Gibraltar’s culture and history.

The first thing that stands out about this novel is the balancing act Mogford performs from cover to cover. There is plenty of drama but also a lot of action. There are passages dominated by dialogue but also high-octane explosions, a fire, and physical violence. The characters live private lives full of home and work minutiae, but they also participate in public life and have to perform in it depending on their role and status. There are hearsay and rumor but also official documents and memos. There are views of the highest echelons of Gibraltarian society, but the author also shows the lives of regular folks. Lastly, this is a story of the present but also one with deep roots in a past that—much like the history of the place—is constantly brought up in the narrative. The result is a novel that manages to simultaneously occupy a plethora of spaces while never losing sight of the darkness that lies at the core of the plot, the thing that set everything in motion:

Spike turned over the last document of the file, registering the twist of disgust in his gut as he stared down at the thick sheaf of A3 papers. So that was how it was done, he thought. That was how you orchestrated an execution.

Mogford is a talented storyteller, and this is most obvious in the way he shifts gears within the pages of A Thousand Cuts. Spike has a family life and a business life as well as the complications and responsibilities that come with and from the Massetti case, and the author manages all of them without allowing one to overpower the others. Everything that’s going on in the story receives the same amount of attention.

In fact, this attention to detail could arguably be considered the novel’s only drawback; describing in luxurious detail the meals consumed by the characters is probably unnecessary and does nothing to move the narrative forward. However, because the places in which these characters meet and discuss their problems are often restaurants, even the gastronomical descriptions fit in nicely with the rest of the story.

The last element that makes A Thousand Cuts an enjoyable read is the prose itself. From crisp dialogue and historical lessons to fast-paced action sequences and even moments of great violence, this is a novel that changes continuously. A great example comes early on when—after the case is apparently over and Spike is at a fancy event—Capurro plummets to her death during a devastating fire in Old Town:

The speed with which she fell was extraordinary, as though a guy rope had yanked her down towards earth. The crowd fell silent, and somehow the noise of the flames seem to quieten too, so that they all heard the hollow, sickening crump as she struck the pavement.

A Thousand Cuts is engrossing and vividly told. When it comes to international crime, we usually hear about great novels from the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, but this series from Gibraltar—which even uses the local language—is as good as anything coming from those places. Anyone looking for a tale of passionate agendas that ignore the passage of time should give this one a chance—just like anyone who’s looking to be entertained while they try to pull the truth from behind a very dark, fatal secret. Gabino Iglesias