By Robert Daws
Rating: 4 Stars ****
About the Author
His recent work for the stage includes the national tours of Michael Frayn’s Alarms and Excursions, and David Harrower’s Blackbird. In the West End, he has recently appeared as Dr John Watson in The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, Geoffrey Hammond in Public Property, Jim Hacker in Yes, Prime Minister and John Betjeman in Summoned by Betjeman.
His many BBC radio performances include Arthur Lowe in Dear Arthur, Love John, Ronnie Barker in Goodnight from Him and Chief Inspector Trueman in Trueman and Riley, the long-running police detective series he co-created with writer Brian B Thompson.
Today I am giving you 2 reviews in 1. I don’t normally do 2 reviews together like this, but I read The Rock and The Poisoned Rock back to back and the 2 fit together nicely, although both books can be read as stand-alone too. So, I wanted to tell you about both books together.
The Rock. Gibraltar. 1966.
In a fading colonial house overlooking the Straits of Gibraltar, the dead body of a beautiful woman lays dripping in blood. The steel handle of a knife protrudes from her chest, its sharpened tip buried deep within her heart.
The Rock. Present day.
Detective Sergeant Tamara Sullivan arrives on The Rock on a three-month secondment from the London Metropolitan Police Service. Her reasons for being here are not happy ones and she braces herself for a tedious and wasteful twelve weeks in the sun.
After all, murders are rare on the small, prosperous and sun-kissed sovereignty of Gibraltar and catching murderers is what Sullivan does best.
It is a talent she shares with her new boss, Chief Inspector Gus Broderick of the Royal Gibraltar Police Force. He’s an old-fashioned cop who regards his new colleague with mild disdain.
But when a young police constable is found hanging from the ceiling of his apartment, Sullivan and Broderick begin to unravel a dark and dangerous secret that will test their skills and working relationship to the limit.
This is the first in this police procedural series. I had not read any of Robert Daws books before now, but having recently met him, I thought I would give them a go and from the beginning of the series. It is worth it! This first book is a novella, which is nice and different. It is shorter than an average sized book, but is a great introduction to Gibraltar and his characters, still containing an air of mystery and intrigue within the pages. The second in the series, which we will get onto shortly is more novel in size. Either way, they are both well-written and holds attention well.
The series is set in Gibraltar and this particular one begins in 1966. From the outset, the scene is set and rather well. It’s all very mysterious before the first chapter has even begun.
The book then swings forward to the present day. It begins with familiar territory which Tamara Sullivan, a private investigator has to endure before taking off on the plane to Gibraltar. Readers will discover that it was never her intention to head to Gibraltar to work, but she was forced into a 3 month secondment there.
I would say not to be put off by the different timelines because they are skillfully written in such a manner that is far from confusing.
The scenery of Gibraltar is beautifully described. Robert Daws has clearly used all his knowledge of the Rock, which he has spent much time on, very well to capture interest in the place as well as the imagination.
Very quickly the story moves onto an intruder on a yacht. It makes for a fast-paced book.
The working relationship between Calbot and Sullivan and Broderick and Sullivan is quickly established and makes for a good read. Sullivan is a woman who can certainly stand up for herself when necessary and make her point, but in a likeable way.
Chief Superintendent C.S. Harriet Massetti and PC Bryant also make up the team of investigators and readers also get a good flavour of their personalities when they are introduced into the book.
The story later, transports readers to 5 months earlier in England. This works rather well in telling what actually happened to Sullivan and why she was seconded to Gibraltar instead of staying at the London MET where she could further her career in the city. It gives further establishment of her personality and how she does go off on a limb at times.
Martin Taveres is a character readers will feel the full force of emotion from due to the death of his loved as it so sensitively and skillfully written.
Later on readers return to 1966. It works and fits in well. The attitudes are realistic and it creates for a good and interesting back story to what was read in the present day.
The style of writing is distinctive and different from many other books, but I like it. I think it works and different and individual writing styles can only be a good thing and not something to be put off by.
For a quick read, this book does just the job. It is written well and has enough setting and drama within it, as well as good characterisation. It made me decide it was worthwhile investing the time to read more of this series.
Please continue reading onwards to discover the second book in this series.
The Poisoned Rock
By Robert Daws
Rating: 5 Stars *****
With only five weeks to go before the end of her secondment to the Royal Gibraltar Police Force, D.S. Tamara Sullivan is enjoying life on the Rock. With one murder investigation successfully under their belts, Sullivan and her commanding officer, Chief Inspector Gus Broderick, settle down to regular police work under the sunny Mediterranean skies.
In London, the British Government has declassified a large number of top-secret files regarding British Military Intelligence operations during World War Two. One file, concerning espionage operations on Gibraltar, has been smuggled out of the U.K. to Spain. It contains information that will draw Sullivan and Broderick into the dark and treacherous world of wartime Gibraltar. A place where saboteurs and espionage plots abounded. Where double and triple agents from Britain, Germany and Spain were at war in a treacherous and deadly game of undercover operations.
As the summer heat reaches its zenith in Gibraltar Town, a film crew has arrived on the Rock to shoot a movie about one of the most enigmatic and legendary spies of the war years – ‘The Queen of Diamonds’. Starring Hollywood A-lister Julia Novacs and produced by local born film maker, Gabriel Isolde, it is the talk of the Rock.
It is only a matter of time before past and present collide and a dangerous battle begins to conceal the truth about the Rock’s poisonous wartime history. Detectives Sullivan and Broderick become caught in a tangled web of intrigue and murder that will once again test their skills and working relationship to the very limit.
The Poisoned Rock begins in 1942. It’s a whole new case within this series. There is a well thought out quote used from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at the beginning, which sets the scene up for what’s to come in excellent manner.
Both books, although are part of a series, also work well as stand alone books. I would say the writing has improved within this book in terms of the flow of it, especially, but both are worth reading. Again, there is an excellent prologue, setting this scene for the rest of the book and a murder already committed. There’s no having to wait, wondering when the action to begin in these books.
There’s murder, offshore accounts, secrets and jeopardy within the well-written pages of this book.
The book spans seamlessly and effortlessly between the 40’s 60’s and Present day as well as a number of locations. Importantly, it all makes sense and flows easily when reading. It is well-constructed and the time frames are well-stated in each part and they all fit together well within the plot. There are also enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing within this book, which can be read as part of the series or it stands alone pretty well too.
Readers are quick to learn a little about Gibraltar’s Second World War history before being transported to the present day where Tamara Sullivan is still serving out her enforced secondment.
Within this book, there are secrets revealed of British Intelligence and a film crew filming about “The Queen of Diamonds” about a spy in the Second World War. There are creatively crafted twists and turns surrounding this mysterious spy and the film, showing that its mere creation has more to it than meets the eye.
There is much intrigue surrounding the film, creating just about enough tension… just who is the mysterious figure observing screenwriter, Josh Cornwallis? There’s also more than just film action surrounding the film’s producer – Gabriel Isolde.
These scenes are written with complete believability, as you can imagine with the acting experience Robert Daws has and whatsmore it adds much to the storyline in a positive way.
The chapters of the book move the story onwards, effortlessly between the film set and the activities of Broderick and Sullivan. Throughout the book, remains an excellently written, sense of place. The more of these books that are read, the more you get a feel of Gibraltar.
This book, also however, also takes readers to a crime committed in Marbella after the victim, Krystle Changtai disappeared from Gibraltar.
People who are not all they first seem to be… There is also more than just the glamour of designer dresses and shoes to contend with… adding to the intrigue of this captivating book.
Lech Jasinski is an interesting character who was a Polish soldier, serving in Iraq and we get a sense of his PTSD. There’s also more to him than what can possibly be first presumed. The characterisation of Lech is good, there’s enough written to create a tension and an air of mystery.
It’s not all about murder. Readers are treated to really being able to get to know more about the characters who work for the police service in Gibraltar in terms of their background, which I also enjoyed.
This series was optioned for TV and when reading the books, it is clear that they would be a good “fit” as it were. The chapters are written exquisitely and almost like they could be scenes.
All in all, Robert Daws has created books with mystery, intrigue and an air of beauty in terms of the setting and all fit together very well indeed to create a compelling and very readable series!
These are all the books at time of writing that are within this series. A Rock Ghost Story is completely stand-alone.
*I thank Robert Daws for allowing me to take his photo at the Morecambe and Vice Festival and for kindly allowing me to use it on my blog. Please also note that my reviews are unbiased.
Books: The Rock
The Poisoned Rock
Author: Robert Daws
Publisher: Urbane Publications
Main Purchase Points: Amazon, Waterstones, Independent Bookshops, WH Smith