Jonathan is a spy.
Anton is Jonathan’s ‘keeper’.
Jonathan is a spy with a code implanted deep in his subconscious, so deeply he can’t remember—anything at all.
Anton is an interrogator intent on retrieving the code, whatever the cost.
But sometimes they dream of dark tunnels and locked-up rooms, and then they both scream.
Along comes Harry, who seems to have all the answers…but who is he, and which side is he on?
For many months, Jonathan and Anton live apart from the world in a hazy, dreamlike state, only interrupted by interrogations and a healthy fear of HQ. One day, they watch a dance performance, and memories begin to unwind… A ticking clock… Betrayal… Missions… Always the scent of oranges. But with clarity, comes a return of powerful emotions…
Last Dance of The Sugar Plum is an exciting spy thriller with as many twists and turns as a maze.
Thank you to the authors and publishers for a review copy.
This review is as spoiler free as we can make it!
Karen: Straight off the bat, I would say that I haven’t read a more original romance in quite a long time, and what I enjoyed so very much about this book was that it kept me thinking. It’s not your typical spy story, nor is it your typical romance nor is it your typical romantic thriller BUT it has elements of all these in it.
Fra: This is one of the most original novels I have read in quite some time: in equal parts spy story and romance, the two authors manage to deliver a thrilling reading experience which compels the reader to pay attention from page one.
Karen: Because it’s focused so very much on what has happened to Jonathan and Anton, and the narrative slips from the past to the present this was an intense read, and why Jonathan and Anton are in the position they are in is only revealed towards the end of the book- so all the way through I found myself second guessing what was going on, and got it wrong, every single time. And that so rarely happens.
After reading my gran’s romance books (Georgette Heyer, Catherine Cookston mainly) I drifted into mysteries and thrillers, so to find books that combine both of these, and well is one of my great reading pleasures. This book made me happy!
Fra: I loved the switches between past and present. Throughout the book I felt that the alternating chapters took me to almost guessing what was happening in both timelines while at the same time kept me focused on the story.
One of the things that I loved most about the novel is the very theatrical narrative: it is as if the authors are constantly pointing a blinding spotlight on the parts of the story they want you to see drawing your attention to the specific scene in front of you and not allowing you to focus on any of the surrounds.
Not only did this technique work for me on a narrative level, I also felt that it brought the shifting timelines together as both past and present chapters are well defined scenes. As such I felt it brought continuity to the story when the story itself was purposely very disconcerting.
Don’t even start me on the guessing, second guessing and third guessing! I mean more than once I thought I had it all figured out only to get to the next chapter and eventually to the end of the novel and realise that I had figured absolutely zilch out!
How rare it is that a novel keeps us guessing and constantly focused on the story and the characters without feeling claustrophobic or confusing? I not only enjoyed this book because it was a good story I absolutely loved it because it of its narrative structure and because it demanded my attention all the time at all times.
Karen: The relationship between Jonathan and Anton is complicated, and at the beginning I felt that there was an element of Stockholm syndrome going on, then co-dependency – but like everything else in this book, Claire Davies and Al Stewart took my preconceptions, and made me think, again and often again about what I was reading. There are times when you have to just trust in your authors, and for me this was one. These two write consistently different and excellent books without, as far as I can tell, any really obvious writing or plot repetitions or tells. Their writing is spot on for me, neither too flowery nor too linear (I detest those books that read like a Delia Smith recipe- and then they did this, and then they did that etc) and they pack a lot into the books without them becoming diluted or shallow.
Fra: I agree: Stockholm syndrome and co-dependency crossed my mind too in relation to the MCs relationship: but I trusted the two authors to push the boundaries of my expectations and stayed with the story. And how expertly they did so too! Through a tight plot, a perfectly sustained narrative and expert writing Al Stewart and Claire Davis took all of my expectations – together with the easy way out many would have chosen – and kicked them out of the field.
Everything I have read of these two authors has defied expectations and delivered original, clever stories which have made a real impact on my reader’s mind.
In this particular case, as I was saying earlier, it is not only the story that is phenomenal but it is the way that is written: while you read you focus on the events – both past and present – to try and pull the threads of the story together and become invested on both threads and yet it is only when you get to the end that the whole story becomes visible. It is almost as if the novel is narrated in reverse.
I thought this novel original, clever and so far away from the norm that – never mind the story itself, which I loved, I absolutely fell in love with the structure, the narrative. All in all this was a winner for me and I highly recommend it.
Karen: I couldn’t agree more Fra, LDoTSP joins my best of 2017, and is highly recommended.