Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by The Book Club on Facebook and the author in return for a fair and honest review. All views are my own. Post contains affiliate links.
This is the fifth book in The Lambeth Group thriller aka Gavin Shawlens series – I must be honest that when I dived into Tabula Rasa I had not read the previous books and had no knowledge of the main characters. So the first thing to tell you is that this can be read as a standalone book.
The thriller launches straight into the territory of the underworld and secret agents, and an introduction for new readers, or a reunion for old to Zoe Tampsin – A Special Forces trained agent now working for The Lambeth Group. There is a description of extreme sexual violence at the outset, but don’t be put off as this is important in setting the story up. Her mission is to investigate the death of a government scientist and the mysterious “abduction” and guardianship of his son by a family of aristocrats, the Silsdens. This is where Zoe’s partner from previous cases, scientist Gavin Shawlens comes in to play as he is a personal friend of Lord Silsden’s son. Odd couple Zoe and Gavin go undercover as an engaged couple to try to unearth the secrets of the Silsden family business but someone wants to stop them at every turn. The mysterious phrase Tabula Rasa is brought to their attention – can Gavin’s knowledge of the world of science help them to understand what it means?
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I don’t intend to give any spoilers away here. But I will tell you is that this plot moves in so many directions and has twists and turns that are so unexpected that I defy you to be able to put it down! I hadn’t met Zoe Tampsin before, and whilst the books seem to be labelled the Gavin Shawlens thrillers, for me Zoe is the stand out character. Gordon Bickerstaff has created a strong woman with a great sense of self-worth, duty and loyalty. She has grown up in the military with a serving father and brother, has served an exemplary career herself and is a natural leader. I love the way that she can slip so easily into and out of character, doing whatever needs to be done, fooling even those who know her, and yet her love and loyalty for her family and closest comrades is uncompromising. Her strength of character is tested to the extreme both mentally and physically in this book – she is the ultimate survivor and a wonderful female protagonist.
Based on this book alone I felt that I didn’t get to know Gavin Shawlens particularly well and he at times feels the weak link when put alongside Zoe and her team. It feels that Mr Bickerstaff is asking us to question the need for Shawlens and whether he can be relied upon to remember which “side” he is working with. The attention to detail of the science is superb, and I really like the fact that not everything goes to plan and the characters have to think on their feet, make life changing instant decisions and show their vulnerability. This feels like real life, if in a world very removed to my own!
I could not put this book down and felt exhausted when I did reach the end. For me there were so many things that I just did not see coming – the sign of a great thriller, surely? My first thought on completing the book – “WOW!”. My second…..well, let’s just say it involved a certain online book store and I now have the first 4 books sitting on my Kindle too – I loved it that much!
Five stars from me!
Other titles in the Lambeth Group thriller series:
About the Author: biography from Amazon page
I was born and raised in Glasgow but spent my student years in Edinburgh. On summer vacations, I learned plumbing, garden maintenance, and I cut the grass in the Meadows. If I ran the lawnmower over your toes – sorry.
I learned some biochemistry and taught it for a while before I retired to write fiction. I like DIY and I do some aspects of DIY moderately well and other aspects not so well. I live with my wife in Scotland where corrupt academics, mystery, murder and intrigue exists mostly in my mind.
I write the Gavin Shawlens series of thrillers: Deadly Secrets, Everything To Lose, The Black Fox, Toxic Minds and Tabula Rasa. They feature special investigators Zoe and Gavin. More will come in due course.
I enjoy walking in the hills, 60s & 70s music, reading and travel.