‘The Maze of Cadiz’ is Aly Monroe’s first novel and introduces the character of Peter Cotton. Cotton is the ultimate phlegmatic Englishman (he made me think of John Major and his many grey ties) so this is definitely not an action spy novel.
Peter Cotton has been sent to Cadiz in Southern Spain to relieve the agent there – Ronald May of his duties and shut down the office (neutral Spain is now leaning away from Hitler and towards the allies). But, before Cotton arrives he finds out that May is dead and his mission changes to finding what happened to him – and what he did with all the money he spent in the weeks before he died.
In Cadiz, Cotton’s every move is followed by the local policeman – Ramirez who sees himself as Clark Gable (except that he is older). It is almost certain that Ramirez already knows everything that Cotton is trying to find out.
Cotton’s task is made more difficult by his obvious foreignness – tall and blonde in a place where almost everyone is short and dark. He eventually manages to track May’s final movements.
The characters of both Cotton and Ramirez were brilliantly portrayed and some of the other essential characters were pretty good as well. But there were several characters who seemed to have no real purpose except to pad out the book. There were also whole scenes whose only real value seemed to be to set the atmosphere and I wonder if this could have been done within the plot rather than in otherwise pointless scenes.
Having said that, the atmosphere was brilliantly set with the hot and lazy Southern Spanish summer, the hostility towards foreigners and the incredible poverty and fear.
Book Published 2008