By Joe McCoubrey, Writing.ie Crime Scene Reviewer
Let’s first deal with the blurb:
Living a quiet life in the suburbs, Sophie Brinkmann is captivated by the handsome and sophisticated Hector Guzman. She has no idea that beneath Hector’s charm lies something far more dangerous. Hector is the head of an international crime syndicate. He is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants now is the total annihilation of his rivals. Before she can fully grasp the extent of Hector’s world, Sophie is trapped within it. Her house is under surveillance, her family is at risk. Hector is at war – with Russian hit men, South American drug traffickers, German gangsters – and now Sophie is too. But who can she trust when even the people who have sworn to uphold the law are as dangerous as those dedicated to breaking it?
Random House describes its new addition as “a monumental International crime thriller” and credits no less a bestseller as Brad Thor summarising the novel as “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets The Sopranos.”
That might just be a bit over the top, although there are moments when you can see why the parallels have been drawn.
This is a 446-page slow burner. There are a lot of characters and a bit of scene-setting to get through, but those who show a bit of resolve will be rewarded with an engrossing tale that comes surprisingly with the kind of blood-letting and general mayhem you’d expect to find in one of the more violent books of the action genre.
Soderberg has an easy style to his writing. It is laced with the right mixture of the mundane and the dramatic, with just enough of an early sprinkling of action and pathos to keep the reader going. The problem is that it is clear from early doors this is the opening shots of a trilogy that will require a bit of patience and stamina to continue the journey.
His canvas is a large one, stretching across the world to various locations and introducing the reader to a myriad of adventures in the best traditions of top-drawer international intrigue. Be warned – once you climb aboard, it’s a journey you are almost compelled to finish.
The writer’s background in television scripting is barely disguised. There is little doubt this three-book adventure could end up as a successful film or television serialisation somewhere down the line. And therein lies the rub! Was it created with just that in mind?
Soderberg has a lot going for him. He’s the type of new-kid-on-the-block author that is often difficult to discover. He will inspire a following; he will see his books appearing in store shelves across the world; and he will be successful in charting in quite a few categories.
I’m not a lover of serials. At best they can be compelling, but the author risks a lot in setting out a stall that will not appeal to those who like a beginning, middle and end between the covers of one product. However, Soderberg just about gets away it.
The central character, for example, is a somewhat convoluted being, struggling to decide whether she is just a timid nurse or someone who can be a gangster’s moll. There are numerous journeys of discovery for Sophie Brinkman, who has to adapt quickly to the dangerous barriers placed in her path, yet somehow manages to keep her credibility as a mundane single-parent. However, by the end of a breakneck adventure we can already see her new beginnings and the emergence of a tough-gal persona she will need for what still lies ahead.
Is that enough to take us forward into books two and three? For my part, I’m glad to have read The Andalucian Friend and will probably look out for the next instalment. There is no getting away from it – Soderberg is a tremendous writer, and has crafted a great yarn that will demand a follow-up loyalty.