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by Neil Forsyth
Jonathan Cape, June 2012
256 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0224093444

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Neil Forsyth is to be congratulated for one of the cleverest crime novels in ages. Written entirely in the present tense and with just two main characters, it's a masterpiece of realistic suspense with its few action scenes sharp and totally realistic.

The flawed hero, whose real name we never learn, is a none-too-bright, steroid-enhanced, bodybuilder from the wrong end of Bradford, one of the most miserable of northern towns and one beset in the late 1980s by considerable racial tension. He was the unthinking bodyguard for a neo-Nazi rabble-rouser until he discovered his boss was no more than a clever crook and his betrayal to Special Branch earns the man a long prison term and 'Craig' as he is renamed, a place on the witness protection scheme.

With his new name, a tattoo of the Auschwitz gates removed from his back, and a dead end job in a boring Midlands town, he is more than a little dissatisfied with life and his relationship with a greedy and envious girl is on the verge of break-up. She nags him into a cheap package holiday to Ibiza where he meets a stunning barmaid at the third-rate hotel at which the couple are staying.

Ana, a Hungarian Jew, has a past of her own and a private mission to track down an Auschwitz guard who casually condemned her grandparents to the gas chambers and ruined her mother's life. She believes the man to be hiding on the island like so many other Nazis who fled to Franco's Spain at the end of the war.

When the smitten hero fixes a minor fault with her car he is inexorably drawn into her long quest for revenge, but puts them both at deadly risk when his former boss puts out a contract on his life from his prison cell.

Both the main and supporting characters are brilliantly drawn and their backgrounds so simply realistic that this is a difficult book to put down. London-based Scotsman Forsyth may not be the most fashionable of writers, although his Bob Servant comedy series became cult hits among fans of the absurd and OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY, his biography of the Scottish teenage fraudster Elliott Castro, is in the process of being turned into a major film, but on this form he cannot long be out of the best-seller lists. SAN CARLOS is a thoroughly clever and thought-provoking read.

John Cleal is a former soldier and journalist with an interest in medieval history. He divides his time between France and England.

Reviewed by John Cleal, September 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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