Source: Review copy
Publication: 2nd July 2020 from Polygon
When Daniella Coulstoun’s estranged mother Effie dies in Spain under suspicious circumstances, she feels it’s her duty to fly out for the funeral.
On arrival, Daniella is confronted by a dangerous group of expat misfits who claim that Effie stole huge sums of cash from them in a multi-million property scam. They want the money back and Daniella is on the hook for it.
When a suspicious Spanish detective begins to probe Effie’s death and a London gangster hears about the missing money, Daniella faces threats on every front. With no idea where the cash is and facing a seemingly impossible deadline, she quickly finds herself out of her depth and fighting for survival in a strange and terrifying world.
If I were jetting off abroad for a beach holiday, Thirty-One Bones is just the book I’d want to take with me. Set on the Costa del Crime, it is full of those characterful Brits who make up some of the British expat community up and down the Spanish coastline.
You know the ones: not a lot of cash, into just enough dodgy dealings to get them through, everything always has an angle and is substantially improved by an afternoon’s drinking session.
In Morgan Cry’s splendid caper, this motley crew were presided over by bar owner and matriarch, Effie Coulstoun. She was in the midst of calming the nerves of a foolish investor when she dropped down dead right there in the bar she owned. A bar somewhat ironically named Se Busca (Wanted).
The only trouble is her fellow scammers thought they knew where the money was. They were wrong. Now Effie is dead and her sole heir, daughter Daniella has flown out to take care of her mother and settle her estate.
Daniella hadn’t been that close to her mother for some time. So with no idea that she is about to walk into a hornet’s nest, she finds herself in an impossible sandwich, stuck between disgruntled investors and a bunch of small time con artists both sets being hell-bent on getting their money back.
Daniella doesn’t know where the money is either, but as she quickly finds out, a couple of her mother’s erstwhile ‘pals’ are not as harmless as some of the others. Soon she’s faced with an impossible dilemma; she has to try and placate all parties and do so without losing a limb or getting caught up in an investigation into her mother’s illegal activities.
Morgan Cry’s book is a delightful dash of sunshine crime and is full of splendid characters who were almost but not quite someone once, and whose last chance to strike it rich was going to be in Effie’s bar.
It’s full of humour and offers lots of great, grinning moments as well as being a super thrilling read. The sense of place is just perfect, reminding me of a number of places where I have mis-spent holiday times. The sun adds a glint of veneer to what is an old time property scam of excellent invention but what really makes the book zing are the wonderful character portraits.
I loved the whole idea of straight laced Daniella finding out about her mum’s wrong doings and having to find a way through to make sure she both stays alive and comes out unscathed. Her transition from prim and proper daughter to inventive and surprisingly gutsy woman was highly enjoyable.
Verdict: A fun, thrilling and sparkling holiday read everyone should pack in their virtual suitcase.
Morgan Cry is the ex-pat alias of Gordon Brown, a Scottish crime writer with 7 novels to his name. Leaving the dark alleyways of tartan noir and heading for the Spanish sunshine, Morgan Cry debuts with a cracking tale of murder, intrigue, and a daughter flung right in at the deep end with her mother’s secrets. It’s dangerous out in the sun.