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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!


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