The Meal of Fortune by Phil Brady Unbound
The world of arms dealing, espionage and TV cookery collide in this fast moving comedy caper.
Failing celebrity agent Dermot Jack thinks his luck might have turned when a mysterious Russian oligarch hires him to represent his pop star daughter.
Disaffected MI5 officer Anna Preston is just as happy to be handed the chance to resurrect her own career. Little do they know that their paths are about to cross again after seventeen years as they’re thrown together in a desperate attempt to lure a notorious arms dealer into a highly unusual trap.
Hard enough without having to deal with the lecherous celebrity chef trying to save his daytime TV career or the diminutive mafia enforcer who definitely has his own agenda. Then there’s the very impatient loan shark who ‘just wants his money back’.
And Anna’s bosses are hardly playing it straight either. But one thing’s for sure. There’ll be winners and losers when the Meal of Fortune finally stops spinning. Oh, and another thing, Anna and Dermot are absolutely not about to fall in love again. That’s never going to happen, OK?
This is a spy thriller like no other, part serious, part humourous it is a tour de force of Russian oligarchs, MI5 agents, failed pop stars, the decline of a TV chef and failed teenage love.
The characters are larger than life, with somewhat exaggerated characteristics, even their names seem somewhat tongue in cheek! First up is Declan Jack, showbiz agent with only one client, TV chef Marcus Diesel and even he is clinging on by his finger tips. Divorced with a young daughter Declan owes money to a local loan shark who happens to be pursuing him for repayment adding even more mayhem into an already madcap storyline. What amused me even more about Declan was his past as a failed popstar, perhaps explaining his lack of success as a showbiz agent.
Anna, is the no nonsense MI5 operative, daughter of a renowned MI5 agent yet not quite living up her to her Father’s reputation, sidelined to evaluating reports with a boss who seems to have it in for her. Anna comes across as a real tough nut but you start to glimpse a few chinks in her armour as her contact with Declan increases. The opportunity to stop a major arms deal via Declan is her major chance to restart her career. Yes, I wanted her to catch the baddies but a big part of me wanted her to succeed just to prove her to her horrible boss Kate that she wa I need a good MI5 operative.
Yegor Koslov is the Russian henchman of Russian oligarch Oleg Bukin. He comes across as a short stocky guy, someone not afraid to protect his boss at all costs. His relationship with Declan is one of the highlights of the novel with some amusing incidents that really made me chuckle. Look out for the wardrobe and cupboard moments!!
Oleg Bukin is the Russian Oligarch with all the trappings of wealth, a wealth accumulated no doubt via some seriously dodgy means. His obsession with Marcus Diesel’s cookery programme, The Meal of Fortune, is hilarious, particularly his penchant for cooking along with the show!
Last but not least is Oleg’s daughter Svetlana, a wannabee popstar who Declan is roped in to get her a record deal! Svetlana is petulant, spoilt and hiding a secret.
There are multiple strands to this novel all slightly outlandish, but that doesn’t matter as it only adds to the drama and fun. The setting of the Eurovision Song Contest was a stroke of genius, providing an extremely funny and dramatic climax.
The relationship between Declan and Anna is pretty much one of love/hate. You know they had some kind of past just not exactly what it was and Brady did a great job drip feeding the information, scattering little titbits throughout.
The action is unrelenting, fast paced and at times surprising which I loved and I didn’t even guess the little twist at the end!
This was a novel that surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it quite as much as I did. It had everything I would want in a crime novel, guns, espionage, and fantastic characters, but most of all it was funny, chaotic and enthralling.
I am so pleased that Brady is writing another novel featuring Anna and Declan and I will definitely be adding it to my TBR pile.
Thank you to Unbound for a proof to read and review and to Anne Cater for organising and inviting mybookishblogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Phil was first inspired to write when he read Lord of The Rings as a child. Back then the ambition was to create a whole fantasy world with dragons and sword fights but, as George RR Martin seems to have cornered that market, he now writes comedy thrillers set in the (almost) real world instead.
He is somewhat obsessed with the public and media’s obsession with celebrity, which forms the backdrop to his books. These also tend to feature spies, gangsters, vicious (if feckless) criminals, washed-up private detectives and daytime TV presenters.
The Meal of Fortune is the third novel he has completed but he is as yet unpublished. The first will stay forever in a locked draw in darkened room with a cool wet flannel over its face. The second, the story of a revenge agency may see the light of day once he has finished his current trilogy.
Phil lives in London with his wife and children and works in marketing. His main rule in life is to never let tomato ketchup touch any food that is green. He hasn’t yet worked out any deep meaning behind this and suspects it is not the soundest of principles by which to live your life by. Although it’s better than quite a few he’s come across down the years. Best not to get him started on that one though.