The Moroccan Girl by Charles Cumming

Moroccan

 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.

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

Agatha Raisin – The Dead Ringer (book 29)

bellRinger

The Agatha Raisin series has been around for some time. The Dead Ringer is about the death/murder of a bell ringer and a few other characters (I don’t want to give a spoiler) in the quiet little town of Thirk Magnay England. This is book #29 in the series.

It’s been a while since I read an Agatha Raisin mystery and by getting this publication, I realized I missed a few things going on in her life. The first book in the series depicts her as a cranky, middle-aged publicist, supposedly 53 years of age. I’m guessing she doesn’t age in real time as years later, she’s still a middle-aged lady and described as attractive if not abrasive. My bookish friend Angry Grey Cat renewed my interest in the series.

Agatha has her own detective agency set up now, a change from books in the past where she was more like a Jessica Fletcher character in Murder, She Wrote. What I liked about this book was the familiarity of the little town in the Cotswolds. The picturesque setting and scenery are inviting. Thirk Magna has an ancient church called St. Ethelred and it’s the pride and joy of the community.

There are adult twin sisters who are part of the bell ringers group and very involved in the church. Apparently bell ringing is like no other type of music and isn’t written on a standard score. The six bell ringers change their order and each time they strike it’s done from memory. Quite an art of memory and dedication. It most certainly wouldn’t be for me.

The twins are swooning on about the visit of a bishop who is reputed to be very handsome and they are determined to take charge of the visit, arranging which “song” they will play on bells and generally being pains in the butt. This bishop has some scandal following him as his rich ex-fiancé has disappeared. That’s what interests Agatha very much. Now the bodies start piling up, as you would expect from one of her novels.

The mention of Detective Sargent Bill Wong was a familiar character as I remember him from all the previous books. I wondered why he hasn’t been promoted to a higher rank than D.S. in all the years (29 years!) of being on the police force. But I have to remind myself that this isn’t written in real time as DCI Alan Banks novels. Also, it has been well established that Bill is half Chinese and half British so when I read that again I thought – yeah, yeah…we all know Bill if half Chinese and Brit. That could have been left out.

Food:  There are mentions of Greek food, pub meals, gin and tonics, tea and cakes. I am on board with any of those things!

Overall, this isn’t the edgy sort of mystery I love but a milder mystery, not quite a cozy. Clear as mud? It’s fun to follow a character through a long series so if you are looking for a light mystery series, you may want to give Agatha Raisin a chance.

Much thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for the review.    Linking up with  Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday and Heather for the October Foodies Read.

BriFri  NetGalley12018FoodieRead