His historical novels include the Nick Revill series, set in Elizabethan London, a Victorian sequence, and a series of Chaucer mysteries, now in in e-books.
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.