Thursday 24 January 2019



Crime pays. So barmaid Sandra thinks when she overhears details of a betting scam and wins herself and fat husband Mike eighty thousand pounds. But they’ve reckoned without mugger Lenny, lying in wait outside the betting shop door. And he’s reckoned without a top-notch car thief, his own devious boss, a fellow gang-member with a grudge, and Sandra’s unpleasant almost-Uncle George. 

Chaos ensues as a whole bunch of disparate—and desperate—characters chase the bag of money around Birmingham’s back streets. Plenty of them help themselves to the cash, but none of them are good at hanging onto it. As they hurtle towards a frantic showdown on the banks of the local canal, will any of them see their ill-gotten gains again? Or will their precious gravy train come shuddering to a halt? 

Praise for GRAVY TRAIN: 

“Tess Makovesky’s Gravy Train is a terrifically entertaining, raucous and rough ’n’ tumble Brit Grit crime caper that will leave you breathless.” —Paul D. Brazill, author of Last Year’s Man, A Case of Noir, and Guns of Brixton 

Some fast-paced fun and frolics, as a bunch of Brummie low-lives chase around the city, determined to get their hands on a holdall full of cash.

I do have a soft spot for criminal types in my reading. I'd far rather spend time in the company of some ne'er do wells on the look-out for a score than a bunch of ordinary Joes confirming to society's norms and expectations. Makovesky characters deliver mention just a few..

Sandra - the disaffected pub landlord, a dreamer and a schemer,

Mike - her corpulent, poker playing husband, more interested in his next bacon butty than £80k of wonga,

uncle-George major league criminal and major league creep and sex-pest,

Lenny, an ex-con mugger,

Vernon Ball - crimelord, ruthless and greedy, but not at the top of the tree

Todd - fearfully grassing on his boss, while still fondly remembering sexual encounters with his police handler and ex-girlfriend, Inspector Charlton.

Justine-cum-Danny - a car thief with a skill-set and regrets over Fred her-ex

Each of them with their own limitations and motivations, each of them fully realised.

Our plot (not necessarily in the correct order) - a dingy pub, an overheard conversation, a plan, a betting scam executed and a bag full of readies, a mugging and short-lived dreams of a better life shattered, a skilled car thief steps in, an unhappy crime boss, an undercover informant, an ambitious police officer, a perverted step-uncle with a fearsome reputation arrives to save the day, our hapless mugger again, a dodgy garage owner, a shaky marriage or two, discontent, dodgy photos and blackmail, the canal, a brothel fire, a dead prostitute, a showdown, and an aftermath, with loads more besides.   

Collisions, comedy and collusion, decisions, dreams and delusion.

Enjoyable and entertaining, interspersed with some darker undertones - eg the death of a loose lipped girl. It also casts a light on an ordinary couple, drifting along, scraping by, taking each other for granted, one oblivious, the other dreaming of a different life, a better life, convinced that happiness is something that only money can buy.

One slight niggle. I was a tad uncertain about the big bet and the big pay-out. I'm not totally convinced that it would fly. It wasn't enough to bump me out of an otherwise exciting caper. 

My first time reading Tess Makovesky, but not my last.

4 from 5

Tess Makovesky has her website here. Her novella Raise the Blade sits on the TBR pile.

Read in January, 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 252
Source - purchased
Format - paperback


  1. So glad you liked this one, Col. Tess has skills, doesn't she? And there are some interesting characters in this story, I think.

    1. Agreed Margot, I enjoyed her story telling and her characters.

  2. Yet again I resolve me to read some Tess Makovesky . . .

  3. I'll second your love for the book. Nice review.

  4. Col – This sounds like my kind of book. I get a charge out of characters like Sandra and Mike who always get themselves into big trouble. I am also curious to see how the author handled the Birmingham setting.

    1. Elgin, you would probably enjoy this one then.

  5. Col, I'm not sure I have a soft spot for criminal types unless they get the wrong end of the stick for no fault of theirs, because then I'll be rooting for them. But humour in crime fiction is always welcome.

    1. Prashant, maybe our reading tastes are a little bit different from each others? I do like an underdog, an outsider, a non-establishment type. Humour works well, especially in small doses. There's a great balance here between moments of comedy and more serious doings.

  6. Hi there, Tess Makovesky here. Just wanted to say a big thank you to Col for his smashing interview, and to everyone else for all the kind comments. If anyone grabs themselves a copy of the book, I really hope you enjoy it. :)

    1. Duh! Review, not interview!!

    2. No worries Tess. Great book and a great interviewee! Thanks.

  7. This is more your thing than mine, Col, but I do like the premise and the humor, so it could be fun. Maybe someday.

    1. Probably more me than you, but you never know you might enjoy this if you gave it a try.