Book Review: Everything to Lose by Gordon Bickerstaff

Everthing to LoseThis is the second in the Gavin Shawlins Thriller series. I did not read the first, but this book is written well enough to stand quite on its own…although the reader is left with a cliffhanger.

The novel begins in Berlin in 1936, when Hitler, disappointed by the performance of some of the German athletes, is told by his advisers, who seek a plausible excuse, that the Americans have fortifying energy drinks. This drink gives them the energy to win. Despite the fact this is an utter lie, Hitler directs his scientists to develop such a drink.

Aiden McSwann, father of a child with a special problem, borrows money from the wrong people to pay for her medical care and ends up as a slave in a drug factory when he can’t repay the loan.

The member of a judo team, locked in a room by his teammates after his grandstanding costs them a tournament win, disappears in thin air.

Aiden McSwann’s wife is beaten and threatened by thugs, looking for something they think was left with her by the missing judo player.

Sir James Barscadden, once a respected billionaire, becomes involved in criminal activities, but manages to escape from England despite the best efforts of an MI5 team to capture him.

And this is the problem I had with this book: four full chapters of seemingly unrelated threads before the crux of the story begins in chapter 5. I was just a tad confused, and ended up rereading some of these chapters to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.

In chapter five, we learn that a research team has produced a new product it claims will boost the performance of every athlete in the world. The Lambeth Group, an investigative group within the British government, puts together a team using some of the MI5 agents and a scientist, Gavin Shawlins, to investigate the claim, which they believe is bogus. A top athlete using the product disappears, the product is stolen, and the team discovers the slave-run drug factory is involved. Then Shawlins himself disappears. Complicating the story is the fact a powerful US general has decided that Gavin must die to prevent exposure of a 60-year-old secret capable of world-changing and power-shifting events.

Despite the introduction of more governmental units than I could keep track of, the plethora of threads weaving in and out, and seemingly endless twists and turns, I was interested enough to finish the book. However, it was a challenge. There was an overwhelming amount of exposition and backstory to wade through all along the way, which tempted me to skip pages – but then I would miss yet another thread.

The basis of the plot is contemporary, the introduction of a historical context adds interest, and the author is a very good writer, which saved the book for me. I recommend it to any spy/thriller/ mystery/government conspiracy lover with a strong mental constitution. Would I be tempted to read another of his books – yes, I would, maybe the next one.

About the author:

Gorden BickerstaffGordon Bickerstaff was born and raised in Glasgow but spent his student years in Edinburgh. He learned biochemistry, authored two biochemistry books and taught the subject until he retired to write fiction. He reports he has mastered plumbing and garden maintenance and other aspects of DIY, but gets very tired when it’s time to clean up the mess. He enjoys walking, 60s & 70s music, reading and travel.

He lives with his wife in the west of Scotland where corrupt academics, mystery, murder and intrigue occupy his thoughts. He is the author of the Gavin Shawlens series of thrillers: Deadly Secrets, Everything to Lose, and The Black Fox.

You can find this book on Amazon:

and on Goodreads:



12 thoughts on “Book Review: Everything to Lose by Gordon Bickerstaff”

  1. Great honest review. I love your phrase, “strong mental constitution” (can I borrow that sometime?) and think your attitude about reading something new is admirable!

  2. I hear what you’re saying about unrelated issues in books. I just finished reading a mystery novel by an NYT bestselling author and was disappointed with the ending. To me, there is a death there that is not related to what’s happening as strongly as it should be. I think the author went for the realistic approach with the kill, but come on. Killing someone just for the heck of it — which is how it read to me — makes no sense.
    Another great review, Noelle. Detailed and honest, which is all any author could ask for.

    1. Thank you so much, Sylvia. I had a big think for my third book, because I killed of two of my darlings, Necessary, though, to move the story along and lead to the fourth book (I’ve shot the cover already and have the first chapter in my head).

  3. It’s good to get honest, frank feedback, not always what you want to hear I expect but if you want to improve your appeal to a wider range of people that read a lot it’s interesting to read and especially good to hear that you want to read more.

    1. Mr. Bickerstaff was a perfect gentleman in response to the review, and I expect his next book will be better. I gave it a 3+ out of five stars – anything less than 3 and I won’t post it.

      1. That’s a good idea, being a student of music I face critique most days, what’s good what needs improving, what individual teachers like or not, different teachers like different things. We have a class where we’re meant to critique our peers performance – I’m not sure it’s a good idea 😗

    2. I think having peer review is becoming the latest fashion in teaching. Medical students now critique each other. With your voice, I’m not sure there’s much to critique except WOW!

  4. Not sure I’d read this, Noelle. I hate having to go back and look for clues about what I’m reading (though it happens all too often as my memory gets worse 🙂 ) Hope you’re fully fit again after your virus? Change of seasons always seems to bring bugs along.

    1. Thanks for asking, Jo. I’m still hacking from time to time and my voice is STILL not back to normal, Guess my vocal folds got hit hard, but a gravely voice is kind of nice – if it didn’t take so much effort to talk!

  5. I find spy novels can be very tricky. Movies and tv series are easier to follow because of the settings and actors, but I’ve had trouble with some of the heavy going ones. It’s not my favourite genre but sounds interesting.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: