Wednesday 13 July 2022

The 13th Assassin by Frank Malley #The13thAssassin @MalleyFrancis #BookReview


Emily Stearn is young, headstrong, logical - and believes that someone has murdered her Uncle Sebastian.

Whilst going through his belongings, after his sudden death, Emily discovers an encrypted journal. With the help of Al Andrews, a maths graduate she befriends after meeting in the local cafe, she deciphers the material.

It reveals that Sebastian, a Cambridge history professor, was a spy. Code name WHISPER.

His one mission came in 1981 when British Intelligence believed that he was the only agent capable of getting close to Colonel Igor Kalenkov. A disciple of the 13th Directorate – the Soviet killing and kidnapping department – Kalenkov was closely-guarded, and was planning an attack on the British Royal Family at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana to sow division in the West.

Sebastian did not wish to assassinate Kalenkov himself, but he arranged to lure the Russian into a trap for a sniper to take him out at Moscow’s international history convention.

But not all goes according to plan.

As the journal surrenders its chilling secrets 40 years on, Emily believes that the Russians must have assassinated her uncle.

But does a grainy CCTV image point to a murderer closer to home?

Emily is determined to uncover the truth, no matter what the cost.

The 13th Assassin by Frank Malley was published on 31 May 2022. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review. 

A step away from my usual genre choice, I'd never usually choose a 'spy thriller', but was intrigued by the modern-day aspect of this novel. It is far more than spies, and wars, there's a great deal of history, culture, politics as well as a a well developed and likeable lead character in Emily. 

Emily is something of a misfit and is upset to hear about the death of her Uncle Sebastian, however it becomes clear to her that her Uncle led a much more exciting, and dangerous life than she could have imagined. So dangerous in fact, that she begins to suspect that he was murdered. 

As Emily and her friend Al delve deeper into Sebastian's past, the author cleverly paints a picture of a mission that he was part of in the early 80s, involving Russia and a plot to kill a member of the British Royal Family. It's so well done, with each chapter uncovering more clues and more menace. 

I read this over one sunny weekend and it kept me entertained and intrigued. It's certainly down to Malley's writing, his character creation and his ability to create a believable sense of place that kept this, usually spy-thriller averse reader, on her toes. Recommended. 

I could tell you I have kicked with Jonny Wilkinson, played tennis with Greg Rusedski, sailed with
Ben Ainslie and played in a cup final at Wembley.

All of which are true, but in reality I am a writer who spent a lifetime watching, reporting and marvelling at the feats of men and women with talents I could only ever dream about. It has taken me around the world to places as diverse as Tirana and Tokyo.

As a columnist and deputy sports editor with the Daily Express for 15 years and as chief writer with Press Association Sport, I covered Olympic Games, World Cups in football and rugby and top events in golf, tennis and motor racing.

I was also shortlisted for Columnist of the Year in the Sports Journalists’ Association awards.

Born in Wigan, I am the author of five books, most recently THE 13TH ASSASSIN, a cosy murder mystery cum spy thriller, which was published by Sharpe Books on 19 April 2022 as part of a three book series. This book was inspired by a holiday in the seaside resort of Weymouth overlooking Portland Bay, which is famous for the Portland Spy ring which operated in the 1950s and 60s.

My first novel, WHEN THE MIST CLEARS, was published on 14 May 2020 by Whisper Publishing and was inspired by my part-time voluntary work for charity, transporting cancer patients in an ambulance car to radiotherapy treatment. The book is a tribute to some of the inspiring characters who, despite their fears, invariably make the car journeys funny, irreverent and life affirming. All royalties go to the Primrose Car Service (part of the Bedford Hospital and Friends charity).

The sequel, a crime mystery entitled IF IT LOOKS LIKE A DUCK, featuring the same main characters, is scheduled for release later this year.

My current work in progress is the sequel to The 13th Assassin, another murder mystery based amid the university spires of Cambridge.

Non-fiction publications:

LIVING ON THE DEADLINE is a memoir of my life as a sports journalist, described by the Library Journal of America as ‘Fun and exciting to read’ and ‘A warm and witty reflection of a career well spent’.

All royalties from this book go directly to a Multiple Sclerosis charity.

SIMPLY THE BEST– The inside story of how Wigan became rugby’s greatest cup team, pays homage to my home town of ‘pie eaters’ and arguably one of the most successful sports teams of all time. Royalties from this book also help support the Joining Jack charity, which was set up to aid Jack Johnson, the son of former Wigan player Andy Johnson, when he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The charity, backed by England rugby union captain Owen Farrell and many other sports stars, has grown into a multi-million-pound initiative which helps thousands of children suffering from the disease.

CHAMPIONS - the 26 year quest for glory, tells the story of Manchester United’s first Premier League title win. The book rose to number four in the UK best sellers’ charts and was endorsed and promoted by George Best.

I enjoy cycling, playing the piano and I am a keen pub quizzer and box-set watcher. I live with my wife, Carole, in a small, picturesque village in deepest Bedfordshire.

Twitter @MalleyFrancis

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