I became a fan of Ms. Mandel when I stumbled on her debut novel "Last Night in Montreal". Her second novel is totally different and proved to be just as enjoyable. This time, I was treated to a sophisticated cocktail filled with flashbacks and flash forwards mixed into a fiery mystery of suspense, international intrigue, a tale of family loyalties and the price one pays to obtain independence.
The story concerns the conflicting and intersecting interests of Anton Waker, his ex-secretary/lover Elena, his cousin Aria and the detective bent on bringing down the family business, Alexandra Brodon.
Anton wants a normal life, have a family and a desk job. He is tired of doing things that are immoral and being involved in the illegal business of his parents, but his ties are strong and hard to break. Anton reinvents himself as a successful middle manager in another field but his carefully constructed life soon begins to disintegrate around him. His past comes back to haunt him when his cousin Aria threatens to reveal his roots in crime if he doesn't do one last job. Now he is forced to choose between family and his desire to live a life on the good side of the law..... How can he keep his past buried for ever?
The story is well-crafted without the slam-bang action found in most thrillers. It explores the dangerous territory between ones duties to family versus ones desire. The writer's prose remain sturdy and lean throughout, slowly drawing you in, gradually building tension until you are hooked and holding your breath in anticipation and savouring every word while turning the pages. Anton Waker, is Mandel's mysterious, complex and conflicted protagonist and the rest of the cast is carefully nuanced to create a unique atmosphere. It is easy to relate with Waker, he really doesn't seem like a criminal at all, a good person at heart unfortunately brought up on the wrong side of the fence.
I enjoyed this novel very much; Emily St. John appears on the right track to be a diversified and gifted writer.