Cover Image: The Milan Contract

The Milan Contract

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Member Reviews

Thank you Stephen Franks for the signed book and Netgalley for the review copy. A man is shot as he walked from a Milan hotel to his waiting car by a moped rider. When Raphael Conza starts to investigate he discovers another guest at the hotel with identical looks. Is this a case of mistaken identity? The gang responsible try hard to cover their tracks. Evidence and witnesses go missing. A tough case for Conza with political aspects. Brilliantly written, intricate plot and highly recommended.
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When the story began, I was mildly confused. The author plays that confusion well and builds up the situations to make us doubt ourselves. We are alternatively shown the unfolding events in real-time as well as the histories of the people involved at all stages. This helps us empathize in some cases, and in others, wonder what those people being introduced to us will end up doing.
There has been a shooting in Italy; we know who did the shooting and quite early on know the why. Given all these known facts, one might assume there are no unknowns to be had. The people who assume such a thing would be wrong! There are a lot of twists in the narrative. They stay true to their name, changing our understanding of the tale as well as altering the possibilities of events to occur. 
The police procedural is mixed with espionage, and family bonding is added to the mix as well. 
This is one of those books that gets better the more invested you are in it and the further you go. The writing made me feel like it was a translation of a non-English work, which worked well in setting up the mood but also had me reading slower. My rating is because of the pacing and not the story itself. The ending was unexpectedly neat(which is a good thing). I would pick up another book by the author given a chance.
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.
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What a great read.!This was Not  just another mystery.  We learn early on  who did it but the unraveling of why takes on a life of its own.  A rare one of a kind gem. If you enjoy reading a good suspense to the end, this is for you. This has  so many twists and turns, it keeps you turning page after page.  I was given and advance copy  of this book for an honest revie.w.This was not your familiar formula murder mystery.  this had several threads to follow with so many characters..  It was a great murder suspense.. I found myself hoping  the murder would not be found.
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What a stunning debut novel.

If I should describe this book in a couple of words I would say cloak and dagger meets mafia (and not only the Italian variant). At the start of the book you think you know where the story is going, but than it twists and turns and puts you on the wrong foot a couple of times.
I have seldom read a book where a murder is committed and almost from the first page you know who the killer is. At least, you know who pulled the trigger. This is a complex story about crime, blackmail, motives, politics, cover-ups and a few brave man.
Couldn't put it down, so had a couple of late nights ;-)
Looking forward to more work by this author, Mooncat books and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

I want to thank Netgalley
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I never repeat the blurb. I looked at this as it had such an amazing write-up in the national press, but it did not capture my attention at all and I ended up giving up. Not my style.
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That was one hell of a ride.

I checked out this eBook with every intention to just read “the first few pages” before going to bed. Instead, I spent the next 2.5 hours reading until I fell asleep from exhaustion. And when I woke up, I immediately took the finishing the last 25%.

To say that The Milan Contract was “gripping” “a page-turner” “exciting” would be a huge understatement. Indeed, I was on the edge of my seat almost the entire time, holding my breath.

I guess it helps that I personally like seeing different POVs in thriller books. The Milan Contract had so many different characters that I was at first worried it was going to get confusing, but surprisingly, it wasn’t. I also appreciated the fact that we were given glimpses into the antagonists’ backgrounds  — after all, every bad guy has his own story.

Anyway, I’m happy the way the story ended for the most part, although there’s just one thing I wish hadn’t happened (you’ll know when you read it!) The epilogue was a nice touch. Now I’m looking forward to Stephen Franks’ other books! 

I’d like to say thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of this book. This is actually my first NetGalley book and, my goodness, I’m so glad it’s as memorable as it is!
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Here you have all the ingredients of a great crime thriller: espionage, sabotage, murder, revenge, hatred, blackmail, intimidation; plausible protagonists; powerful antagonists; shady killers. And then there is Milan - a city that inspires and entices with its eclectic peoples and culture, a fast-paced metropolis that ignites the senses and yet harbours a darker underbelly that few are exposed to.

And just when you thought you knew where you were being led, you take a misstep and find yourself with more questions than answers.

A fantastic first novel - and cannot wait for more!
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Synopsis/blurb ....

'Except for the ugly brown bullet hole, the corpse could have been the image of the man in the mirror.'

Lukas Stolz, an ex-East German math's guru is shot dead outside the Hotel Napoli in Milan. But Lieutenant Conza of the Guardia di Finanza is not convinced the bullet was meant for Stolz. His investigations lead him to Nyala Abebe, a young Ethiopian emigre who may be a vital witness.

The gang behind the murder will stop at nothing to cover their tracks and Lieutenant Conza finds himself in conflict with powerful and influential adversaries.

He soon realises he's out of his depth as he seeks answers and begins to uncover the secrets behind the Milan Contract.
My take ....

Very tense. Very twisty. A fantastic plot. Great writing. Interesting characters. European setting. 
What more do you want?

From the get go, this one grabbed me. A man is murdered outside a hotel. A man who looks just like him witnesses the crime and flees. Who is the target? Fortunately we have Lieutenant Conza on the case.

Our murder investigation, inevitably embraces a couple of missing person cases - the doppelganger and the young kid who fled on the moped. In Conza, we have an interesting, capable, honest detective, who with the backing of his boss manages to avoid stepping on too many toes within the various branches of the Italian police and authorities to dig for answers.

Assassination, disappearance, organised crime, black ops types, government secrets, gangsters, big business, family history, East German upbringing, split loyalties, the Stasi, betrayal, death, immigrant innocents, manipulation, coercion, control, surveillance, CCTV, tapes, flight, fugitive, a manhunt, an investigation, police corruption, police cooperation, a hitman cleaning house and tying up loose ends.

Brilliant, fascinating, complex, engrossing, compelling.

It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. I'm looking forward to what Stephen Franks serves up next.  

4.5 from 5

Read - April, 2021
Published - 2020
Page count - 322
Source - review copy from author
Format - paperback
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Wow! It’s so hard to sit and write a proper review over this novel when my mind is still exploding from the creativity that went into writing it. To state that it’s a page turner simply doesn’t do it justice. From the first moment I began flipping through the pages and reading, I knew I was going to love it. Mixing thrill with an adrenaline pumping storyline, Franks goes into an amazing tale about corruption, betrayal, and sticking things out to the end. 
Throughout the book, it was difficult to force myself to put it down at night. The way it’s so beautifully written, it’s as if the book is a 5 star meal at the best steakhouse in the city. Each chapter, written in various perspectives of the characters, details their trials and thoughts. It leaves you curious, wondering how the different pieces are going to fit together by the end. And, when that ending comes, it is as action packed as expected. 
To keep things short, would I pick this up at a bookstore and read it again? Yes. I’d take it with me on my next flight and spend hours reading through and picking apart the flaws in each wonderfully detailed character. Both good and bad are part of humanity, and I think this book does more than represent a realistic crime story. It leaves you wanting more. Phenomenal read.
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Fast paced, exciting, relentless, action packed thriller jam
packed with well drawn characters and a plot that resonated with me. I was drawn in from the first chapter and finished it - breathless- the same day. 

An exciting new talent has been revealed. Highly recommended.
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This was an enjoyable action packed thriller set in Milan. Detective Raffy Conza is investigating the murder of a German Professor outside a hotel in the city. There are a number of suspects and also a leak within the police station so Raffy has to be careful what he says to his colleagues.
When a young boy confesses it seems as if the case is closed but all is not as it seems and Conza continues to investigate. A number of powerful people do not want him to succeed and he has to use all his contacts including his English friend, Harry who is a barrister in order to work out what is going on.
I found the sheer number of characters quite difficult to grasp, particularly in the first half of the book and consequently felt that some were rather two dimensional. The denouement itself and the reason for the murder were quite complicated  and I had to pay close attention to understand what was going on.
That aside “ The Milan Contract” was easy to read and I had no trouble racing through it to find out the reason for the murder and who was actually behind it. I would definitely be up for another book featuring Raffy Conza  and Harry Chase, set in this beautiful Italian city.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for my arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Everything about this book is captivating. This novel is impossible to put down. I downloaded the arc yesterday morning, and by the afternoon, I had finished. The rollercoaster was intense, the twists and turns unexpected, and the element of surprise insane. Look out for this author in the future.
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Thank you to NetGalley, Stephen Franks (author) and Mooncatbooks (publisher) for giving me the opportunity to read The Milan Contract.

For a first novel by Stephen Franks it is a "ripper". I loved it. 

To start off I thought hang on a minute there are way too many characters continually being introduced, how am I going to keep track of them all. Yes, there were quite a few characters, but the brilliant way they were described, it was easy to keep track of who was who. 

Lieutenant Raphael Conza was the main policeman but he was very able supported by a few others. The book was set in Italy, but it also encompassed, UK and Germany among other countries. 

I will not say too much about the book or plot, but if you get a chance to read this one, do yourself a favor and make sure you get it. 

I would love to see some sequels to this and make it into a mini series. A couple of the main players may have already left the scene, but I am sure it could be developed further. If so, I would love to read some more. I will keep my eye open for more books by Stephen Franks. 

I have no hesitation in giving this the highest rating of 5 stars from me.
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Stunning debut novel!

An action based thriller that keeps you turning pages as quickly as you can read. You become invested in his characters and the plot is involved but never over played.

As is the vogue at times there is a need to refer to earlier events and explain with background information. However, this is never at the expense of the modern day drama unfolding.
In some novels these past references can slow down the progress but here they are used to great effect and enhance the reader’s enjoyment and grasp of the story.

A professional style hit on a business man checking out of his hotel at first seems like a bundled robbery; maybe even a case of mistaken identity. But the case seems more complicated still when witnesses are threatened and killed. Furthermore there appears to be leak within the police team itself which places others at risk. 

I liked the humanity of the police officer heading up the investigation. I enjoyed the sense of conflation and frustration within serving officers. I loved this focus on the Italian police model and the locations used to convey the story.

The writing is informative but seldom less than entertaining, despite the events described. I appreciated this realism and as a police procedural it had quality. However what lifts the story further it has historic roots , yet totally current, believable but essentially it is greater than its parts. Since it also falls into the category of Cold War thriller, with espionage and action two components that ratchet up the drama and the tension.

Without trying to be too clever, the author weaves a credible story with victims and perpetrators being ordinary people acting under duress or in the wrong place at the wrong time. I also liked the implication that crime is not always solved; criminals can avoid consequences of the law due to powerful and influential backers. This reflection on why people become involved; their apparent quilt established along the way but how evidence isn’t always found, even if there was a will and motivation to bring down those pulling the strings. Blackmail, implied force and the ability of friends to enact revenged makes the story more authentic for me.

I found I cared about the characters and from the dilemmas thrown up made me empathise with those caught up in these events, as black and white seemed to blur together and cynicism made everything seem grey.

Hopefully not a one book wonder. Potential clearly evident, more satisfied readers might help launch this author’s career. A great debut, more of the same, please.
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