Friday 28 November 2014



In this prequel to The Bookseller, former FBI profiler Hugo Marston has just become head of security at the US Embassy in London. He’s asked to protect a famous movie-star couple, Dayton Harper and Ginny Ferro, who, while filming a movie in rural England, killed a local man in a hit and run. 

The task turns from routine to disastrous almost immediately. Before Hugo even meets them, he finds out that Ferro has disappeared, and her body has been found hanging from an oak tree in a London cemetery. Hours later a distraught Harper gives Hugo the slip, and Hugo has no idea where he’s run off to.

Taking cues from a secretive young lady named Merlyn, and with a Member of Parliament along for the chase, Hugo’s search leads to a quaint English village. There, instead of finding Harper, more bodies turn up. Teaming with local detectives and then venturing dangerously out on his own, Hugo struggles to find connections between the victims. Is this the work of a serial killer—or something else entirely? Knowing he’s being tailed, the killer prepares for the final, public act of his murderous plan, and Hugo arrives just in time to play his part. . . .

This is the fourth Mark Pryor - Hugo Marston book but the first chronologically as we find our US head of embassy security working in London and babysitting a glamourous, high-profile Hollywood couple. The two movie stars are under investigation after a local farmer’s son was killed in a hit and run.

I've previously enjoyed The Bookseller and slightly less so The Crypt Thief and initially I was drawn into this one as it started promisingly. Sadly for this particular reader an occurrence-event-death kind of derailed this train just as it was picking up a head of steam. I kind of thought – really, you just did that……oh ok, where are we going now then?

London, Hertfordshire, Paris, film stars, local community, hotels, pubs, private clubs, MPs, journalists, hangings, shootings, graveyards, trains, S&M, leather, secrets, death penalty, family history, executioners, Madame Tussauds…all figure.

After the occurrence that threw me, I was reading but not ever so invested in the plot, the characters or the ongoing investigation. We have further deaths, involvement with the local police force, our MP who like Hugo has managed to insert himself somewhat unconvincingly into the case, a local journalist and a burgeoning relationship with a hotel worker with a predilection for S&M.

Later in the book, when our keen bibliophile and security chief Marston catches the Eurostar to Paris and just so happens to find an abandoned magazine on his seat – the Bookdealer the trade journal for the book trade – I think you would probably have heard my groan in Paris. I was lost after that.

I read on, as I do. Overall it was fairly well-written, just a bit far-fetched and unconvincing. Our murders get solved and resolved at the end. But did I enjoy it, like it, was I satisfied… Did I loathe it…….nearly. It was okay, just disappointing for me. I kind of thought if it had gone in a different direction it would have been a totally different and for me more enjoyable book.

Still probably just about a 3 from 5 as it did have its moments and I wasn’t tempted to gouge my eye out with a spoon at any point. (My wife has hidden the sharper cutlery!)

I’ll read the fourth in the series – The Blood Promise and I’ll be hoping for better things.

Mark Pryor’s website is here.

Thanks to the team at Seventh Street books for my copy of this one.


  1. Now you've intrigued me! I've got this one on the shelf, entirely thanks to you and the kind people at Seventh St, and am wondering what I will make of it... sorry you didn't enjoy it, I will compare notes when I've read it.

    1. I'd be interested in another opinion on it. It might just be me. I don't want to elaborate on it too much in case it spoils your enjoyment.

  2. Col, I liked this novel more than you did and would have given it 4 out of 5. I liked the beginning and the way the graveyard scene sets the tone for the rest of the book. I thought Hugo Marston's character could have been a little more convincing but then I haven't read his previous novels in the series to see how the character develops. The writing is good.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Prashant. I think it developed into a different book along the way which wasn't what I had been enjoying up until that point. Far from the worst book I have ever read, just not one of my best.

  3. Col - I'm always disappointed when that happens - when a plot event or a character derails. me. Still, I'm glad you enjoyed most of the book enough to finish it.

    1. Yes, it was a shame but hey hoh - the next read beckons. On we go!