A Thousand Cuts, by Thomas Mogford, is the fifth book in the author’s Spike Sanguinetti Mystery series. Set in Gibraltar it focuses on the eponymous defense lawyer who in this instalment agrees to take on a tricky client – a volatile alcoholic named Massetti – at a colleague’s request. The case takes an unexpected turn and Sanguinetti is drawn into a tragedy that unfolded during the Second World War and led to his client’s father being sentenced by the courts to death by hanging.
Sanguinetti has plenty on his mind. He is making a home for his newly adopted toddler son, Charlie, and his fiancée, Jenny who is pregnant with their child. They are living with his father in the house he grew up in, an arrangement that seems to suit all given the amount of childcare the old man is expected to provide. Jenny wishes to find somewhere more appealing to live but with tax exiles requiring residency little decent housing is available within their price range.
The tax status of Gibraltar affects much that goes on including the pressure Sanguinetti finds himself under to service lucrative clients from around the world. His family have lived locally for generations so have many contacts, including the wealthy Stanfords who he has been close to since childhood. Drew Stanford is also a lawyer and Sanguinetti’s opponent on the Massetti case. When Drew announces that he intends to run for political office Sanguinetti is expected to offer his unquestionning support. His personal moral compass puts a strain on loyalties from all sides.
As with any good mystery there is a varied cast of characters whose history draws them together in unexpected ways. The plot is deftly presented in short chapters that keep the reader engaged.
I enjoyed the descriptions of the people, for example in a restaurant where Sanguinetti glances at the clientele:
“tax lawyers, liquoring up non-doms, their raucous laughter failing to conceal that telltale sharpness behind the eye. The insurance brokers – yesterday’s boom industry – in their sensible suits with a touch of the idiosyncratic thrown in: the spotted bow-tie, the statement jewellery. There was even the odd bored-looking Russian or Italian, ignoring his surgically enhanced wife, here under suffereance to see out his required period of tax residency.”
The reader quickly gets a feel for the challenges of living in such a place, the resentments that can fester and the history some would take risks to keep buried. When the death toll starts to rise Sanguinetti finds himself questionning how much he truly knows about long term acquaintances.
This is an engaging and entertaining read that deals well with the very human sides of the cast. As I knew nothing of Gibraltar, the evocation of the setting also added interest.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Bloomsbury.