Death Rites by Alicia Gimenez-Bartlett is the first book in the Petra Delicado series written in 1996, translated from the Spanish by Jonathan Dunne and published this year in English.
Inspector Petra Delicado has been holding down a desk job in the documentation department of the Barcelona police force. She has problems shaking off two ex-husbands, the domineering Hugo, and the helpless toy boy Pepe, and then because the department is short handed she is assigned a case and a partner.
Her new partner is Sergeant Fermin Garzon an overweight unsophisticated widower in his late fifties from Salamanca.
Petra is of course very different, 'despite my brilliant training as a lawyer and my police studies at the Academy, I had never been assigned a significant case. I was labelled "an intellectual." I was also a woman. All I needed was black or Gypsy blood in my veins to complete the picture of exclusion."
Their case involves a serial rapist who leaves a distinctive flower mark on his fragile victims.
I have to admit I found this book rather heavy going as the investigation took second place to a lot of conversation and philosophizing by Petra. My difficulty was not that the lead detective was a woman as I had no problem with Irene Huss or Grazia Negro, but that the plot was not strong enough to keep my wavering attention.
Getting mileage out of the strained relationship between the two detectives and of the apparently surprising situation of a woman being in charge does begin to wear thin after a while. At least the growing respect and burgeoning platonic friendship between Petra and Fermin is one of the better themes of the book.
'Unbelievable, Garzon, you're unbelievable, really."
He laughed with delight.
'You've achieved something impossible for me, you've rid me of all my husbands.'
I want to give novels set in Spain another chance to excite me so I have moved on to Robert Wilson's Javier Falcon thriller The Hidden Assassins. The only Robert Wilson book I have read previously was the brilliant A Small Death in Lisbon which won the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger back in 1999, therefore I am hoping The Hidden Assasins will be of a similar standard.