Chapter nine of the Liam and Zita saga. London’s calling but so are surprises.
Amsterdam. Liam and Zita are on the boat deck, anchored in a Canal – he is chilling, she is tending her flowers. Soon it will be his birthday and she proposes to go to Madeira. Why not, he replies, after thinking about it.
Not long after, Zita receives a telegram, and, if the fact itself wasn’t already unusual enough, the content is even worse. They know, she keep repeating, alarmed. Who knows what, asks Liam. My boss, the Mossad. In the telegram, they referred to her as Sigrid, which is her real name. They know exactly where she is, despite all her efforts to hide. It’s definitely not a good moment.
So, Zita does the only thing she can: she pushes Liam into the water and tells him to swim to the opposite side of the river, where they sit on the bank, wet and scared. There, they wait for nighttime to come and then, using the darkness to their advantage, they go to DeGroot safe house, break the police seals and tamper with the new lock. But at least they are inside a house, where they can get changed and warm up a bit.
Unfortunately, the place only carries bad memories of violence and torture, but at the moment it’s more important they stay alive rather than thinking about their mental wellbeing. They won’t need to hold on for long anyway. They need to prepare a plan to escape, the sooner the better. in the meanwhile, though, Zita does all she can to secure the place. They do not know exactly how long they are going to stay, it might be anywhere between two or six, so Zita and Liam need to be careful and use all the precautions they can. At the beginning of their third day in the house, Zita finally breaks the news: they are leaving for London, and they are travelling light. Two backpacks are more than enough. It will be a long journey, it will be crazy and dangerous, but it will keep them alive, promises Zita.
On the way to the Eurostar they meet with Palina and Jan. Palina is a friend of Zita and with her she shared her painful permanence in DeGroot house, the same Liam and Zita took shelter in. The couple is very helpful, but at the same time this brings back memories and secrets that Zita would have preferred to keep in the dark. The permanence with Palina and her husband is short, and Liam and Zita soon embark on a Eurostar for England, their final destination Ashford.
Back in England they meet with Liam’s father, who is all but happy to see them, reinforcing the strong feeling Liam has of being displaced and not home anymore. It’s even more shocking to see that his mother, who has dementia, doesn’t recognise him. But, as Zita tells him, the world goes on, people change, places change, thank goodness.
While in the city, Liam goes to visit Kathleen, his ex wife. While she is surprised but civilised, Harry, their teenage son, is not particularly happy and tells him to get out of there and get lost. In the meanwhile even Felix, Kathleen’s current partner, pops by. He is unfazed by Liam’s presence, has a polite and superficial exchange of gallantries with Liam, and quickly leaves. The civilised conversation between Liam and Kathleen quickly fades, clearly there is too much history between them to last long on a light note, but Liam still manages to end his visit on a high.
Liam’s next stop is at his father’s house. He finds out that that day he has a seminar on ‘how it is to live with dementia’ and, on Liam’s insistence, they both attend. It’s wild. It’s eye opening for both of them, even if not in a nice way, because they realise how much their wife and mother is going through. They leave the seminar even more discouraged than before.
Zita meets with Jimmy, and while they are together, they hear on the news that a 33 years old man has suffered an acid attack not far from where they live. Immediately, their thoughts turn to Liam. As soon as they reach the hospital, the reality welcoming them is different: luckily it’is not Liam, but Felix, Kathleen’s partner. They are sure the attack was meant for Liam.
Liam knows who plotted the whole thing and goes to find Player, his cronies and Oleg. After some heated confrontation and a subsequent altercation, Liam is knocked unconscious, dragged out of there and to another location, where Player’s men pour vodka straight down his throat, which is a low blow for Liam, who’s hit the 575 days mark of sobriety. It doesn’t take long for Zita to find out who did it and take her revenge. Detective Fuller, now DCI, thinks he knows what happened and has his suspects, but nothing can be proved.
In between more police suspects, family problems and brushes with an early death, the ninth book of the series will reach its final pages.
It’s a fast-paced story that contains a good mix of humour and violent action, but without transcending into trashy descriptions. I liked how the narrative was in keeping with the genre, but I somehow missed a lack of deeper descriptions, both about the environment the two characters live in and their emotional state. Not always ‘less is more’ is the best choice. However, it’s a pleasant read and, for those who are following the series from Book 1, a definitely a welcome addition to the saga. If you are a newbie to Graham’s work, we recommend you start from the beginning to get a better sense of what’s happening.
Interesting fact: the title of each chapter is named after a song: fans could actually have some fun creating a dedicated Spotify playlist!
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