The Moroccan Girl by Charles Cumming


 The Moroccan Girl was my introduction to the work of Charles Cumming. This book is a page turner and I am delighted to have discovered this author. Definitely adding him to my favorite authors list and plan to acquire more of his work.

The main character is Christopher “Kit” Carradine. He’s a novelist writing about spies and espionage. One day he is approached on a London street by a man named Robert Mantis; he’s posing as a fan of Kit’s books. As Kit writes about the spy world in such detail, evidently convincingly, Mantis makes overtures to recruit Kit into the British Service.

It’s a thrilling prospect for Kit to get out of the day-to-day writing routine and do something exciting. He’s meant to hook up with a British Service contact when he’s in Morocco at a writers event. If he can also locate Lara Bartok and pass off a package, all the better. Lara is a young woman who may be on the run from her own government or she may be a terrorist. Lara was the girlfriend of Ivan Simokov, leader of the group Resurrection. This group seemed to start off with an ideal of exposing bad people, folks in positions of power who abused their positions at the expense of us regular citizens.  Eventfully Resurrection turned very violent.  Is Lara Bartok on the run because she was involved with Resurrection or is she fleeing Ivan and the people she once worked with? She is a very interesting character.

There are scenes in London but most of the flavors are in the Morocco. Casablanca, Tangiers and Marrakesh come to life in this book. You are immersed in the setting, the heat, sweat, suspicion, the colorful setting and the foods. As Kit makes his way through Morocco he is caught up with British, Russian and American agents but it’s hard to tell which side they are on. What’s the endgame?

Another interesting thing are the references to authors who were tapped by the British service to spy or act as a support agents. Frederick Forsyth and Somerset Maugham in particular were mentioned and now I want to know more about them so my reading list has grown thanks to this narrative. Hoping to read more about Kit Carradine in the future if he becomes a regular character in a series. In the meantime I will be tracking on Mr. Cumming’s other espionage novels.

Lots of food referenced but of course it’s not a foodie book. I always note the dishes or drinks when I read as I’m always up for recreating a dish that appeals. In this case I wanted to make Lamb Tagine but in the interest of getting my post done here, let’s have Lamb Kebabs.

Here’s a sampling of the meals and drinks I noted: Lamb Tagine, Chicken Dhansak,  Tarka Daal, Chablis and fish cakes, spaghetti Bolognese, fried fish and Merguez sandwiches, chicken couscous, cheese and pasta salad, baklava.
Black coffee, margaritas, gin and tonic, pints of ale, vodka martini, mint tea.

I’d like to thank NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. I was slow getting to it a “reading group” was supposed to get together for this one. Wish I had just started it earlier because I would be reading another of Cumming’s books now. If you like espionage and mystery then I highly recommend this book. Well done, Mr. Cumming.


More about the author – Charles Cumming

Sharing with Joy’s Book Blog for her British Isles Friday event, Beth Fish Reads and Heather for the March Foodies Read.

BriFri  2019 Foodies Read

Blowback by Valerie Plame

Blowback is term used by the CIA meaning there were unintended consequences during the course of a covert operation which affect the aggressor. Counter attacks that are unforeseen. Once you start reading this book you’ll understand why this title works.

Overall I liked this novel and main character Vanessa Pierson. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Valerie Plame’s initials are the same as Vanessa Pierson. It’s probably not a coincidence that Vanessa is tall, athletic, blonde and works undercover in Counter-proliferation operations. Pierson’s background is threaded throughout the book so you slowly get to know her. You know she is driven, she breaks rules, she gets results and she is obsessed with capturing Bhoot, an international arms dealer who has given everyone the slip for many a year.

The character Pierson is a cross between James Bond (without the gadgets) and a character from the old show Mission Impossible. Get in and do your work then disappear. Nice spy story with settings in Washington DC, Prague, London, Paris and Vienna.

The first half of the novel kept me reading but it was the windup that had me completely hooked. So much happening all at once and the ends are tied up fairly neatly. It’s obvious there will be a follow up book and I will definitely read it.

Certainly this is not a foodie book but there were a few mentions here and there. Black tea and Honey; caramelized frog legs from a Masterchef television show; bourbon and more bourbon…there was a mention of marzipan Mozartkugeln (Mozart balls) regarding a key character. He had a sweet tooth and so, tracing his steps in previous days before he was murdered revealed a trip to a sweet shop.


By the way, I didn’t spoil anything for you by mentioning murder 🙂
More on Valerie Plame

Happy Reading!!


The Valley of Shadows by Mark Terry

The following is from the jacket inside the novel The Valley of Shadows. After reading that, how could I not want to plunge into this novel?!

“A raid on a Pakistan Al-Qaeda cell recovers two laptops. When the computers’ booby-traps are defused and the computers decrypted and translated, they indicate that Al-Qaeda has planned a series of simultaneous attacks in five U.S. cities involving potential dirty bombs, biological weapons and maybe even a nuclear weapon-on Election Day. Derek Stillwater, troubleshooter for the Department of Homeland Security, is assigned to a multi-jurisdictional Special Terrorism Activity Response Team (START) to locate the weapon and terrorists in Los Angeles and prevent the attack. They have two days. But as they close in on their targets, Derek begins to think that the intelligence they gathered is a sideshow to distract them from the real target-one of the two candidates for President of the United States.”

The only thing I am sorry about is this book is the fourth in the Derek Stillwater books, but that won’t keep me from reading the others to be sure. I will be purchasing more of Mark Terry’s books, hopefully in Kindle edition.

As a side note, you can snap a book closed after reading but there is no dramatic effect when you simply turn your Kindle off. There isn’t a rousing statement in clicking the off button 🙂 Still….. lovin’ my Kindle.

There weren’t many mentions of food in the book. After a dramatic escape from a fire (where Derek was tied to a chair – lots of action!) he hooked up with his former partners and wolfed down a breakfast burrito. Not exciting fare but hey, it was a moment of simplicity as he ate a common ordinary breakfast within hours of having a life threatnening experience, escaping being burned alive.

As if you need a recipe….but if you want to visit me at Squirrel Head Manor c’mon over!

More Information: Mark Terry

I am placing this review on Goodreads and also at Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.