If the way you enter this world is any indication of how your life will turn out – the grief surrounding your birth amidst WWII, abandoned by your mother, accused of murder before your childhood is over – who would you become? No wonder Tom has a ruthless streak in his character, defining his future, shaping him into a man on a lethal mission, destined to cause death. Yet his inspiration and motivation for the manhunt is love – can it be?
This is Andy Blackman’s first novel and it is a fascinating read. The first pages immediately have you drawn into the story – the extraordinary life of Tom, who grew up in the post WWII years in London’s East End. He’s back in England but why the reader has yet to find out. Meanwhile both MI5 and MI6 are on his track and they provide us with the basic information about Tom: his surname is Sharapova and he is an “expert in all weapons, proficient in all forms of martial arts” which comes in handy when you are “chief enforcer for Vladimir Sharapova, boss of the Ukrain/Odessa Mafia.” No wonder Tom is a man much feared.
Back to WWII we find nurse Grace in a London hospital, where she meets her best friend Julie. Julie is the one with the many boyfriends, Grace the quiet one, until that fateful day she reconnects with her childhood friend Tom Backer. They fall in love but Tom is forced back in the army, has to leave after their wedding, but not after impregnating Grace. When the war comes to the little hide-out where pregnant Grace and her mother-in-law live, the results are disastrous, leaving Grace to grief over the loss of her unborn child and the death of her mother-in-law. As if she hasn’t suffered enough – Tom is killed in action.
But Julie, after staying with Grace, leaves her with a surprise: her newborn baby. Grace names him Tom and she moves with her little boy back to London’s East End. There they live peacefully, not knowing that before Tom reaches adulthood he will be branded a murderer and has to flee the country. Grace falls back upon a promise from a Russian sailor, whose wounds she stitched and whose lonely days in hospital she brightened up. Little does Grace know that, although it will bring Tom in safety, it will also confront him with great danger: captain Ivor Sharapova brings Tom in contact with his nephew Sebastian and the rest of his family in Odessa.
We watch Tom finding his way in Odessa, becoming a member of that Sharapova family by marrying Sebastian’s sister Natasha. Life seems to be smiling at him, they are blessed with a beautiful daughter Grace and S&T Imports, the business Tom and Sebastian founded, started prospering. This partly due to the contacts and contracts another uncle, Vlad Sharapova, brought in. Then fate invervenes – a terrible accident, no a hit, a murder, and Tom suffers the greatest loss of his life. Now Vlad tells him he’s the boss of the Ukraine/Odessa mafia – and all becomes clear to Tom. Tom’s destiny is shaped: this is personal, he is a man on the hunt, seeking revenge.
What follows is a adventurous, touching and revengeful story. Tom has patience, his revenge will last, but how long? And will he find his revenge, or will they get him first? Who are ‘they’ and why did they order the hit? Can you live a life based on hatred, on vengeance without crushing your soul? Will he ever see his mother Grace again? For he sees her as his mother, no one else. As we spot in the beginning of the book, the net is closing, Tom is being watched, both MI5 and MI6 hold him responsible for 200 assassinations worldwide, they won’t underestimate the highly intelligent and extremely dangerous chief enforcer of the Ukraine/Odessa Mafia.
This is a fascinating and interesting read, although in my opinion there were a few superfluous lines and some repetitions that could easily have been left out. What truly amazed me was that I felt sympathy for Tom despite his being a murderer. He seeks revenge, but never looks into his heart to find his own guilt and responsibility for establishing himself close to the mafia with all of its connections. His doings and contacts caused others to look upon him and the family as a target. I said it is a touching story, but when you think about it, a murderer seeking revenge, how can it be? And yet strangely enough it is – a wonderful tale of friendship, love and loyalty.
About the Author
After serving in the British Army for over twenty-five years in the Parachute Regiment, Andy Blackman today lives in Bedworth, Warwickshire and works within in the IT sector.
|Publisher||Clink Street Publishing (27 Sept. 2016)|