The Milan Contract: Finding the killer was just the beginning...

By Stephen Franks

Loved it! 😍

A great thriller, taut and tense, with a well-executed plot which starts as a regular police investigation but develops into so much more

I am pretty impressed by Stephen Franks' debut novel which is a fast-paced thriller, with an array of diverse characters. It masquerades initially as a police detective murder investigation being pursued by the Milan police; however, this book becomes much more than that, delving into history and espionage and the dark, dark criminal world with a plot that surprises.

Franks' protagonist Lieutenant Conza is called to the scene of a rather cold killing outside the Hotel Napoli in Milan where a guest leaving for the airport is gunned down. But was the right person targeted that day or was it a case of mistaken identity?

As we follow Conza's investigation into the murder, we are introduced to the politics between the different departments of the police as well as the background to the victim, which takes us to the dissolution of East and West Germany and the tensions that can only arise from two very differing ideologies.

Conza discovers that the death of Lukas Stolz is not as clear cut as solving a murder: he has become involved in something complicated and far-reaching that could detrimentally impact his career and maybe even threaten his life.

I thought, when I started the book, that it was going to be complicated and jerky as it introduced characters from diverse backgrounds and jumped about a bit in terms of location but Stephen Franks' control of the progression of his plot means that there is nothing that lacks clarification and it all evolves at the right pace, the pieces slotting together with ease. In this, it is very well planned and executed. And as Conza discovers more, I felt compelled to finish it, to find out the truth and it all leads to a very satisfying climax.

There is just the right amount of menace and violence: enough to make your stomach tense and with detail sufficient to fit the story, but not too much to become gratuitous.

Franks has created a likeable character in Raffy Conza. He is a man without attachments but he is dogged and unjaded; methodical and thorough - just what you would want in your investigator. I'm not sure if Franks has plans to bring him back but I would certainly look forward to and, without doubt, read another Conza book. Actually, if Franks writes anything else, I would seek it out.

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It's not easy to sum up who I am, enough to make me interesting anyway, so what's essential to know? I love to read. I love to review. I love to write and blog at Short stories and poems are my main writing successes, winning runner-up plaudits on Reedsy Prompts and

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