Within five days in the same Devon town Warwick Eden, a prominent but divisive politician, is assassinated, Ryan O’Donnell, a young crew-member from his luxury yacht, apparently kills himself, and Diane Hammill, a woman seemingly unconnected to both men, disappears.
Skye and Fergal Shepherd who act as consultants to a section of the Security Services are tasked by their handler, Duncan Hamilton, to find Diane but they disobey explicit instructions when, after they have located Diane, they look into the seemingly unconnected suicide and assassination.
As Skye and Fergal learn more about the wider Eden family they find themselves investigating not Diane’s disappearance, nor Warwick Eden’s assassination, but something altogether more interesting.
Hostage to Fortune is a delightfully easy read. It follows the well-worn path of using a couple of clever amateurs to explain a situation that has been puzzling the professionals, in this case security officers in the Home office, for many a long year. Our amateurs, Skye and Fergal Shepherd, are a young and highly competitive couple. They have been married for just over a year and neither is yet keen to admit who is top dog.
This is the second time the youngsters have been engaged by the Home Office. Once again the situation they are asked to investigate – the disappearance of Diane Hammill, the keeper of a safe house in Dartmouth, Devon – is related to, but is by no means the precise conundrum that needs solving.
Right from the start it is obvious that with all the resources available to them the security services and the police must know the answers to the various crimes that are dangled in front of our heroes (including the murder of Warwick Eden, a rich far-right politician; the suicide/murder of young man whose father has been wrongly accused of, and then imprisoned for injuring a policeman by Warwick’s elder brother Barford; the death of Arjun a gay man who is killed when sailing with Warwick’s nephew) but do they receive any help? Oh no.
After they had worked out the intricate connections between the above crimes and have decided who has killed whom, Fergal and Skye are still not satisfied that they have solved the elusive riddle that they have discovered.
Against specific instructions to the contrary they travel to Spain where much, but not all, is explained. Indeed, Skye and Fergal succeed in revealing the answer to the real question Gordon Hamilton wanted answering without either them (or the reader) even realizing that they had done so. It is only right at the end of the book that we, along with Skye and Fergal learn why they were sent off to wade through a veritable labyrinth of crime that had its roots in the history of the Spanish Civil War. It is neither a question nor an answer that you would guess, so if you want to know what it is you will have to read the book.
There are many strands in this book. The interlinking stories of the main characters are told separately before they gradually coalesce into a comprehensive whole. Skye and Fergal are an entertaining couple whose natural tendency towards insubordination is more than fully manipulated by Gordon Hamilton, their devious controller at the Home Office.” Angela Crowther, PromotingCrime.com
“What makes a perfectly normal boy turn into a psychopathic killer? “
“What makes a perfectly normal boy turn into a psychopathic killer? Hostage to Fortune follows the progress of Guy Cliffe from the moment he learns the true identity of his father, through his growing awareness of the unfairness of life, to his understanding and embracing of what he has to do to achieve the life he truly believes should be his. Carolyn McCrae’s latest is a tightly plotted mystery that will appeal to lovers of thrillers that are just that little bit different.” JM, Spain
“An excellent book which kept me intrigued until the end. I recommend it wholeheartedly.” Rachel C, Essex
How did the plot for Hostage to Fortune come about?
I was ‘between books’ in February 2017 when husband Colin and I went on holiday to Spain. I had in mind that Skye and Fergal Shepherd ‘investigative historians’ should have another adventure at the behest of Gordon Hamilton but I had absolutely no idea what that adventure might be.
The paper in the imaginary typewriter was blank?
A blank Word screen, yes! But not for long. As we drove around the Mediterranean coast between Alicante and Gibraltar, visiting Cartagena, La Herradura, Almeria, Estepona and Almuñecar, I began to think about the events of that country’s Civil War. It revived an interest I had had when I lived in Spain in the late 1960s. That was a time when it was clear that memories of that war, then less than thirty years in the past, were still very raw. I knew Skye and Fergal would be interested too.
So it’s about the Spanish Civil War?
Not exactly, though Skye and Fergal have to learn something of the events of that time to solve the mysteries they have been set to investigate.
As in Second Strand, set to solve one mystery they get diverted into others. This time, asked to find a missing woman, they involve themselves in looking into an assassination and at least two murders.
A complex plot then?
Certainly intricate and certainly (I hope) not formulaic but not unduly complicated, though I didn’t have a complete say in how the plot developed.
Other people were involved?
By the time Colin and I returned home the plot was almost formed and after three days I had mapped out what I thought would be the chapters. As ever though, as I wrote, the protagonists themselves began to have their say in how their stories developed and so it was they: Arjun, Ryan, Pat and Diane, Jenna and Wave but most especially Guy, who really led the development of the plot and were the masters, and mistresses, of their own destinies.