by Fiona Macintosh

Publisher: Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House 2024

Publisher’s blurb

The heart-stopping new crime thriller in the Detective Jack Hawksworth series by blockbuster author Fiona McIntosh.
Superstar footballer Luca Bruni is being blackmailed for a night of lust he swears he didn’t participate in… except the ransom photo denies that. A media darling on and off the field, he has powerful charisma, a perfect home life he’ll do anything to protect, and more money than he knows what to do with. He’s determined to defy the extortion racket.
When Detective Superintendent Jack Hawksworth learns that the cunning mastermind behind this crime has already swindled a dozen of the world’s most highly prized male athletes, he is instructed to keep the situation from escalating and prevent a media frenzy.
Intrigued by the creativity of the crime and the shockwaves it is creating through the global sporting fraternity, Jack begins a journey into a case that has tentacles far more wide-reaching that he ever imagined – and far more deadly.


by Kay Weller

Foul Play, by Fiona McIntosh, is the fifth instalment of the police procedural series featuring Detective Superintendent Jack Hawksworth of the London Metropolitan Police. Although I haven’t read any of the previous books, I quickly assimilated a sense of the main characters and their back stories.

Luca Bruni, the star striker for a premier league football team, is the latest victim of an extortion racket that targets successful sportsmen. Like the previous men, he receives a Polaroid photo showing he has cheated on his wife, along with a demand for half a million dollars in hush money. Unlike the other men, Luca is determined not to give in to the blackmailers’ demands, adamant that he has been set up. He wants to stop the scam affecting his and other families so he calls in the police.

DS Jack Hawksworth, Hawk to his team, has a roving brief to deal with the more sensitive and complicated issues facing the Metropolitan Police and is assigned the case. 

When he and his team uncover subtle differences in the modus operandi, they suspect that they are dealing with a copycat, but are also determined to track down the perpetrators of the original scheme. This sets up a series of complications and plot twists which keeps the tension rising steadily until the climax. 

The pace is relentless, with one revelation leading to the next as two separate enquiries combine into a single operation as Hawk and his team uncover links between the original blackmailers and the copycats. 

The standout character for me was Luca Bruni. His path from suburban soccer games in Adelaide to Huxley Arrows superstar is fascinating. He is grateful for his success and remains humble and level-headed despite the glitzy, movie star world he finds himself in. Family, loyalty and integrity are paramount, which is why he refuses to give in to the blackmailers. I immediately liked and admired both Luca and his wife Ally, which kept me hooked, needing to find out what happened to them. The background detail on the Soccer world felt authentic as well.

The only thing about the novel which didn’t quite work for me was the characterisation of Hawk and to a lesser extent, the polite and formal interaction with his team. Hawk doesn’t mind breaking the rules, and has had a troubled love life, but I never had to worry about him facing the difficult consequences of his decisions. He seems to negotiate the drama with ease, as long as he has a barista-made cup of coffee at hand! Maybe it’s because I do love a troubled police protagonist, where part of the conflict in the book is internal, but I found his character a little one dimensional.

For me, reading Foul Play felt like visiting my local coffee shop. The waiter greets you by name and shows you to your usual table and the menu is full of familiar favourites. There’s nothing too challenging, just good honest, satisfying dishes, professionally served by confident staff. Entertaining, fast paced and easy to read, it’s a novel I would happily take on a long-haul flight and I would recommend it to readers who enjoy elegantly plotted police procedurals with the background story based on meticulous research.