Set during the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779), this is an unusual crime novel. When a young Scottish soldier, childlike Jamie Macfarlane, is found hanged, suicide is assumed. But Jamie’s friend, Giovanni Bresciano, is convinced he was murdered and sets out to find the killer. Bresciano is an unconventional hero – a Gibraltar boy recruited into the British Army, he combines dogged determination and local knowledge with a feverish adolescent imagination. His scattershot selection of suspects and motives is ridiculed by friends and soldiers alike. But rising above his lack of experience and method, he perseveres.
Gibraltar besieged makes an interesting setting for a novel. 8000 people crammed into three square miles of barren rock create a potent backdrop. Hunger, frustration, boredom and a hodge-podge population collected from 18th‑century Europe are all cleverly woven into the (rather far-fetched) plot, and Gibraltar is so well described it almost becomes a character itself. Bresciano’s callow youth makes him an attractive, if sometimes irritating, hero. The authors have taken care to create many three‑dimensional minor characters and this, combined with their affection for Bresciano and for Gibraltar, contributes to a very enjoyable read. A second novel about Bresciano is on the way.