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Tuesday 26 March 2024


A.J. Aberford’s debut novel Bodies in the Water (2022) is very impressive and can stand up against many accomplished best-sellers such as Gerald Seymour and Ken Follett.

For me, he’s covering a lot of familiar ground, setting his story primarily in Malta, where I lived for almost two years.

Neatly structured, it has a prologue and epilogue which features two Nigerian youths, Abeao and Mobo. The tale begins when a body is found floating in the Grand Harbour of Valletta. Police inspector George Zammit is tasked with investigating the death – which is soon established to be murder.

Several scene changes take us to Libya where a certain people smuggler Abdullah Belkacem is intent on expanding his business, notably with links to Malta.

Another protagonist is Englishman Nick Walker who is working for a Sicilian company, the business being a front for money laundering. ‘By the time he began to suspect what he was really involved in, he also knew that walking away was no longer an option’ (p25).

George’s nemesis is Assistant Commissioner Gerald Camilleri, an influential unprincipled man who has little respect for Inspector Zammit.

Added to the mix are Marco Bonnici and his daughter Natasha, both involved with the Sicilian Family and not averse to law-breaking.

All of these different characters are linked. The threads draw together as we experience militia fighting in Libya, the treacherous illegal crossings of the Mediterranean, and the political blackmailing by powerful people in both Italy and Malta.

Aberford has clearly done his research, and this gives us an insight into the conditions in the different lands. There is humour, especially with George’s domestic existence, and also friendships are established. The book and characters cry out for another outing – which is all right, since there are now five Zammit books in the series!


Tuesday 19 March 2024

THE GLORY BOYS - Book review

Gerald Seymour’s
The Glory Boys, published in 1976, was his second novel and is sadly still topical today. The Palestine Liberation Organisation has despatched three men to London to kill David Sokarev, an Israeli nuclear scientist who is visiting to give a lecture. The PLO’s purpose is to make a statement and instil fear. Two of the men are intercepted by Israeli Intelligence; only one, Abd-El-Famy, escapes.

Famy is untried but determined to continue with the assassination attempt: ‘... his enemy, tired now, outdated, unable to compete in the new and modern world that he was seeking, unable to comprehend the hitting power of the Palestinian movement, unable to defend itself against the new philosophy of revolution and attack’ (p67).

As planned, Famy obtains the assistance of McCoy, a Provisional IRA killer, who is to supply the weapons.

Alerted that there was a third PLO man hell-bent on assassination, the Security Service attempts to locate the Arab before he can fulfil his mission, and surprisingly they use an old drunk, Jimmy, as the trigger-man; indeed, he may like his tipple too much, but he was a damned good shot and a cold-blooded experienced killer.

A tense man-hunt is under way, involving several innocent women as well.


Even though the world has moved on since this book was written, becoming more hi-tech, there’s no denying the narrative power of Seymour’s story. As ever, he gets into the skin of the protagonists and it reads like it really happened and it still grips the reader.

Friday 8 March 2024

MAYDAY - Book review

Nelson DeMille and Thomas Block’s air-disaster thriller Mayday is a fast-paced page-turning relentless story of suspense.

It was first published in 1979, updated in 1997 and reprinted at least ten times.

Block had assisted DeMille with aviation scenes in his debut novel By the Rivers of Babylon (1977). They were old friends and, after that collaboration, they jointly decided to write a definitive novel about the sudden decompression of a supersonic aircraft, such as Concord, travelling effectively in subspace, and Mayday was the result.

The blurb says it all: ‘Twelve miles above the Pacific Ocean, a missile strikes the Trans Flight 52, a supersonic passenger jet bound for Japan. The flight crew is crippled or dead. Now, defying both nature and man, three survivors must achieve the impossible. Land the plane.’

The missile strike is a US navy test that went wrong. Fortunately, there was no warhead. But it blasted a hole into and out of the airliner, causing the massive decompression.

The disaster is complicated by the loss of radio contact, the arrogant naval Commander Sloan who is desperate to cover up the incident, and the chicanery of the boss of Trans-United Airlines. This has the potential to ruin the airline – just as PanAm was effectively ruined by the financial fallout of the Lockerbie bombing (1988) (it filed for bankruptcy in 1991).

If you’re afraid of flying, it’s probably best to give this book a miss. If you like a high-tension edge-of-seat read, then this will satisfy.

I’ve deliberately avoided giving much in the way of character names and events as the blurb suffices as a spoiler.

DeMille never disappoints. Block has written several aviation-oriented bestsellers.

A TV-film was released in 2005. 

Friday 1 March 2024



This is the fourth – and final – book in Robert Wilson’s Inspector Jefe Javier Falcón detective series set primarily in Seville. The Ignorance of Blood was published in 2009.

It takes place in 2006 when a Russian mafia man is involved in a fatal traffic accident. In his car the police find a bag bulging with euros and video discs – stolen from a mafia gang, apparently.

Falcón is still trying to get to the bottom of a bomb explosion – was it terrorists or some other cause?  He is advised not to obsess about it. There are other cases to investigate: ‘Personal crusades, Javier, are not advisable in police work. Every old people’s home in Spain probably has a retired detective gaping from the windows, his mind still twisted around a missing girl, or a poor bludgeoned boy. Don’t go there. Nobody expects it of you’ (p41).

The Russian villains are particularly unpleasant – and seem to be competing gangs. ‘The veneer, though, was only an expensive suit thick, as Viktor Belenki was a violent brute with access to a rage so incandescent that even Revnik’s most psychopathic henchmen were afraid of him’ (p45).

The video discs implicate a number of very important individuals in the city and elsewhere; there are connections to shady constructors and financiers. Two mafia gangs want those discs.

Falcón covers a lot of familiar ground, including Atocha rail station, where three bombs were exploded on March 11, 2004; other bombs exploded on four trains; those responsible were members of al-Qaeda; over 190 people were killed and over 2,000 injured. (I recall it well; we were living in Spain at the time). However, the bomb explosion Falcón is investigating is not believed to be connected to that atrocity.

Still topical now, Falcón is faced with individuals being radicalised by Islamists. ‘Radical Islam was not something you changed your mind about. Once admitted to the close fraternity and their secrets there was no walking away. They wouldn’t let you’ (p81). Indeed, anyone joining becomes a ‘lost soul, walking a world of death, destruction and martyrdom’ (p86).

Falcón is drawn into the turf war between Russian factions when Dario, the son of Consuelo, his lover, is kidnapped. Are the kidnappers Russian or Islamists?

Along the way, he is faced with an imprisoned judge, a female sculptor in a bikini, and a Moroccan friend engaged in spying on an Islamist group for the Spanish security service. There are violent deaths, gruesome deaths, and a convoluted mystery that must be solved in Morocco.

Falcón has previously suffered from a breakdown, but now he is stressed and stretched to the point where not only is his job at risk, but also his life. Some chapters end with a nail-biting cliff-hanger.

The descriptions of Seville, the characters and the emotions are well delineated with powerful writing.

Although there are references to previous Falcón novels, the book can be read as a standalone. However, the Falcón books in order are: The Hidden Assassins, The Blind Man of Seville, The Silent and the Damned and The Ignorance of Blood.