Seymour, Gerald - 'The Outsiders'
Two young Britons are offered the opportunity to house-sit a property located near Malaga, on the Costa del Sol coast whilst the owner returns to England for an operation. They jump at the offer and young Jonno hopes that Posie will appreciate the trouble he has gone to, and that their relationship will get more intimate in the anticipated elaborately furnished retirement property. The young couple discover that the property is not the mansion they were expecting but in fact it is rather dowdy and in need of a good spring-clean, which is the first thing they decide they had better do before they feel able to start to relax. The story keeps switching from the back-story of the young couple, to a team from MI5 in London who have been sent unofficially to the Costa del Sol property to observe the Russian Mafia that are living in the adjacent property.
The unofficial team of current or retired MI5 staff ('the outsiders') hope to avenge the death of a former colleague who died at the hands of Russian Mafia mobsters. The team are headed up by a lady named Winnie Monk who has a long experience in the field particularly with Russian mobsters but they are very surprised when they discover that the observation post that they have set up in the loft of the Costa del Sol property now has to share facilities with the young couple who were hoping to have an isolated romantic holiday.
Another theme explored of this multi-faceted book is the access by MI5 to a young Russian computer geek employed by extremely dangerous and cruel Mafia bosses, who is disillusioned with his employers, who use his skills to subvert and penetrate their competitors' bank accounts and access police databases and there are worries that his attempts to pass information about his employer to the British Secret Service may be uncovered with disastrous and dangerous results.
The Secret Service decide to substitute the photography skills of Sparky, one of the watchers of the Russian Mafia, with his previous expertise of assassination. However, they have not brought a sufficiently appropriate gun with them and spend much time arranging to smuggle a suitable high powered marksman's weapon in from a British base in Gibraltar. The novel is a very powerful slow burner that kept me gripped until the final page. The highly detailed plot is softened with some humour. The author writes with an articulate polish that makes descriptions of even very banal things seem almost poetic in their intensity.
The author describes the economic shambles of modern Spain and the apparently corrupt maņana, maņana attitude of the authorities in their desire to cope with it; the huge amount of EC funding that built new construction on the Costas that preceded the economic crash and the subsequent abandonment of those sites; the huge amount of money laundering and the population explosion consisting mainly of expatriate gangsters from many countries including the UK, but mainly Russia.
This novel is completely different to all the others that I have read by this very experienced author as they all are written with different themes and characters, which is one of the factors that makes him such an fascinating writer. He is also from a journalistic background (fifteen years as an international reporter with ITN) and meticulously researches the background to all his books which it is very reassuring to his regular readers, who know that his highly imaginative stories have an authenticity because he has such a excellent reputation. Gerald Seymour has been a full-time writer since 1978. THE OUTSIDERS is his twenty-ninth novel. This was absolutely gripping and I hope he writes many more and I have the opportunity to read them as to my knowledge he has never written a dull book. You should read this novel as it is truly spellbinding. Recommended.
Terry Halligan, England