Tuesday, August 26, 2008


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.


Blogger Philip Amos said...

I've read three of Wilson's novels, including The Hidden Assassins, and enjoyed them all considerably. But, with regard to your comment about giving novels set in Spain another chance to excite you, Norm, I unreservedly recommend Arturo Perez-Reverte: The Seville Communion; The Flanders Panel; The Dumas Club. The Seville Communion happened to give me particular pleasure, but all three are masterly in all respects and among my happiest finds of the year.

2:47 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Philip I will give Arturo Perez-Reverte a try.
I am really enjoying The Hidden Assassins as there is a lot of action as well as psychology.

5:47 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

I really like all Wilson's Javier Falcon novels, though Small Death in Lisbon remains my favourite.

On Robert Wilson, I remember you posting a review of Crimini at some point, so I'll pass on something I heard Giancarlo de Cataldo say at the Edinburgh Book Festival - while he usually doesn't like authors who set their books in countries they don't come from (he was pretty scathing about Michael Dibdin), he does like Wilson's books.

For Spanish novels, I've just read the new Water-Blue Eyes by Dominigo Villar, who incidentally was in the same book festival session and very charming. Not written in a style I normally favour, but I enjoyed it a lot. Barely an excess word and very tightly plotted. And a great setting in Galicia.

6:16 PM  

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