Another book I have received a free copy of in exchange for an honest review was the “Salford World War” (Will World War 3 start IN Salford?) A Romantic Crime Thriller for 2014 by Mike Scantlebury (published in 2014/republished in 2018). To describe the process – I was contacted on Twitter by a PR manager (hired by the author, I suppose) to ask if I was willing to read the book and post a review on Amazon and Goodreads. I said yes. It was straightforward and in good faith on both sides, and I was happy to do someone a favor, but also to read a romantic crime thriller, which guaranteed to be exciting and different from most of the books I’ve reviewed so far. Admittedly, I was also attracted by the promise of a romance, and there was some romance in the book, indeed – except that the main male protagonist turned out to be as romantic as a rotting piece of wood and I wanted to bludgeon him to death on several occasions throughout the book. But we’ll come to that later.
I will skip my usual rating system for this book as well and write a focused assessment fit to be posted on Amazon (or anywhere else), where people do not have much time to invest in reading long and rambling reviews.
The book’s main protagonist is Amelia Hartliss, who is a secret agent given an important task of protecting an official from China, who comes to visit Salford. The premise of the story is that there are many who want the Chinese official dead, and if they succeed, the consequence might be that China will issue an ultimatum to Great Britain, because the assassination happened on their soil, which in turn might lead to World War III, similar to what had happened in World War I. Here, I am not sure the idea holds water – for the start of the World War I it was not really important where the assassination took place but who did it. Therefore, even if the Chinese official was killed in Salford, it would still matter who killed him. You can’t just start issuing ultimatums because the secret service of the country supposed to protect the emissary you’ve sent consists of a bunch of people incapable of protecting their pet hamster, let alone a foreign visitor. Or you can, but then you don’t really need anyone assassinated at all.
However, the author makes a good job of selling the idea, so after accepting this as a possibility, we join Amelia in her efforts to organize the visit and at the same time figure out who has murdered a good friend of hers (and a former lover), while in parallel trying to understand if she has a personal life at all and any kind of future with Mickey, a fellow spy. By the way, Mickey is the one I’d like to bludgeon to death, simply because of the way he is treating Amelia throughout the book, and if she has any brains at all, she will delete his phone number and try to forget the guy existed. But, to get back to the main topic, the events unfold, and we discover that almost nothing is as it seems (except that Mickey is truly horrible as a boyfriend), and Amelia kind of succeeds in the end, except that it turns out it was not her success after all. Now, at that point, if I had been treated like they’ve been treating her, I would’ve probably quit my job, left my boyfriend, and found me a therapist, but Amelia is tougher than that, so she decides to stick around – for a couple of more books.
So, why should you read the book? It’s fun, and the convoluted story gets properly unraveled by the end of the book. Mind you, there are 11 books before this one dealing with the same character, so I missed the background information. Perhaps the author could put in front a short synopsis of the stuff that was happening before the book Nr. 12. Then it would be easier to understand certain references in the story. Also, I like Amelia (even though she seems a bit too trustworthy and quite incapable for a secret service agent). She is a nice character, and I am curious what will happen to her. I like even Mickey a bit (but only a bit) because he is kind of rough but honest. However, not boyfriend material. Not at all. What I didn’t like was the way dialogs were written, because I had sometimes a hard time figuring out who said what and if they have said it at all or only wanted to say it. I also did not fully manage to follow many characters who came in and out of the story and were insufficiently described and sometimes acted in a way I could not entirely explain. But if you can overlook these weaknesses, and if you like an action-filled story with a nice female lead character, then you’ll have fun reading this book.
My final verdict is 3.5 *.
Interesting, action-filled story with a twist at the end, but with some incomprehensible and confusing moments, and not much romance.