After a literary vacation which left fans longing for more adventure and perhaps romance, no-nonsense British detective sergeant Tamara Sullivan, demoted to a punishing secondment with the Royal Gibraltar Police, and her gentlemanly local chief inspector Gus Broderick, armed with aplomb and bonhomie, return in a new page-turner by Robert Daws, British TV and theatre actor and screenwriter (as well as ‘trumpet player and bewildered tweeter’, according to his Twitter account).
Gibraltarians are familiar with him not only on screen, watching him playing iconic roles in Casualty, Poldark, The Secret of Sherlock Holmes or Yes Prime Minister, just to quote some, but especially for his participation as a speaker and Just A Minute live contestant in past editions of the Gibunco Literary Festival.
Readers of the first two instalments, The Rock and The Poisoned Rock – and the online novella Tunnel Vision: A Rock Ghost Story – may remember when sassy Tamara reluctantly flew to Gibraltar with the only intention to clear her reputation and reinstate her rank to be posted back home ASAP, but also how, while professionally handling two cliffhanging investigations, she warmed up to the sense of community, and the fondness for the place that goes above and beyond the weather. So they will not be surprised to learn that, at the end of her mandatory spell on the Rock, Tamara decides to stay a little longer, just on time for an international puzzle coming her way.
“Gibraltar draws me back with the friendliness, kindness, and humour of its people.”
Like the previous stories, Killing Rock is set in the summer of 2015, but it expands across the border and across the continents, weaving together events seemingly unrelated in space and time. It reaches out to Spain, the United States and the Far East, as two initially separate investigations – one into the discovery of a mummified body at a demolition site in Gibraltar, and the other into the massacre of a family in a Puerto Banús mansion – collide and cooperate, thanks to both police forces’ professionalism and competence, as well as personal friendships quickly forged and solidly established.
When it becomes clear that the ‘gruesome, dangerous and elusive murder investigation’ is unravelling as a ‘nightmarish quest to stop more killings’, Sullivan and Broderick find themselves tangled in ‘the ghosts of murders past and a very real threat to their own lives in the present’.
Daws likes to root his murder mysteries in the past and makes his characters dig deep in history. He says this plot was inspired by facts he learnt about, and something that happened to him, when he was in the States during the 80s.
Fact or fiction, the truth about this novel is that Tamara is here to stay, to learn how the past affects the present in mysterious and sometimes murderous ways, and to appreciate togetherness and friendship, no matter if she and Gus actually spend most of the enquiry apart.
“I am following the trend, with big shoes to fill.”
“Gibraltar draws me back again and again with the friendliness, kindness, and humour of its people, who have been through a lot and have developed a sense of stoicism that leads to optimism,” the author says. “This story wouldn’t be the same if it was set elsewhere. Gibraltar is my motivation to write these books, as I am a regular visitor when I can. And so, Tamara is warming up to the Rock and will eventually stay. In Gib and with me.”
He notes that there is a tradition of setting crime novels in Gibraltar, mentioning as an example Thomas Mogford’s dapper lawyer Spike Sanguinetti: “So I am following the trend, with big shoes to fill. I was light-heartedly accused of having multiplied the murder rate in Gibraltar, but this pure entertainment, and I hope to be forgiven for that,” he jokes.
No worries, though: after staring down the chasms of danger, Sullivan, Broderick and their new pals will live to see another day, and in fact will soon embark in their fourth adventure, Blood Rock due in early 2021.
“The plot is ready; the research is done. Now I only have to write it,” Robert says, planning to make the most of the free time landed in his otherwise busy schedule during the lengthy suspension of theatre performances and TV productions filming, which he expects to last for the best part of, if not all, this year.
He says to be relieved that Covid-19 hasn’t severely hit Gibraltar, and he wishes Gibraltarians a safe passage through these unusual times – killing time by reading Killing Rock, of course – but he mourns how the UK is paying a high price in terms of human lives lost as well as the inevitable economic recession sparked by lockdown.
As an artist, he’s felt the crunch, when his company’s tour was cancelled overnight: “One night we were on stage in Yorkshire, last show before packing up and moving elsewhere, when we were told the next theatre we were due at was closing down until further notice, and we were sent home to self-isolate.”
He continues: “It immediately felt like extraordinary times with something unpleasant going on.” But the sense of foreboding was mitigated by the perks of spending more time with his family: “It felt as if time had stopped. Being a family making the most of lockdown with Scrabble, and other traditional pastimes, mitigated the effects of this ghastly episode in our lives.”
To him, one of the lessons to be learnt from the pandemic is that people and countries work so much better when they work together than when they work against each other.
Killing Rock is published by Hobeck Books and is now available online.