'New man' Poul Jensen is a Danish house husband looking after his two young children and living in the shadow of his glamorous TV journalist wife Charlotte Dansbourg.
Charlotte was the epitome of a certain type of career woman travelling around the world, following her stories and taking lovers whenever she felt like it.
When Poul hears that she has been killed in an ETA terrorist bombing in a bar in San Sebastian, in the Basque country, he flies to Madrid to make arrangements to retrieve her body. Poul has mixed emotions obviously he will miss Charlotte, the mother of his children, but is almost relieved that he can no longer be hurt or humiliated. In Madrid he meets Lars Hansen, from the Danish Embassy, and the tall blond handsome Swedish journalist Claes Hylander, who was one of Charlotte's lovers.
Poul finds himself in a web of intrigue and double cross where nothing is quite as it seems. When he travels north with Claes to the Basque country his situation becomes even more complicated as he meets the beautiful Ogoya, and becomes involved in a plot to change the government.
"I haven't met many Spaniards who can speak anything except Spanish."
'That's probably because I am not a Spaniard."
"Are you English?"
"I'm Basque. Una vasca," she added in Spanish, but there was no anger in her voice.
This did remind me of our trip to Santiago de Compostela in 2004 where scrawled on the walls in English was written "This is not Spain, Freedom for Galicia."
The Sardine Deception journalist Leif Davidsen's first novel was translated from the Danish by Tiina Nunnally and Steve Murray and published by Fjord Press of Seattle in 1986. Some of the subject matter of the book seems very relevant today as it deals with torture, the fragility of democracy and the place of women in society. The Danish edition was written in 1984 only three years after an attempted coup d'etat in an attempt to overthrow the fledgling Spanish democracy.
This fast paced political thriller is a very easy read, which is a tribute to the translation, and as well as a complex plot has interesting character studies. It has stood up amazingly well to the passage of time and is worth reading if you can find a copy.
"What language is that you're speaking?" he asked in his falsetto.
"It's Danish, the girl said in Spanish, and as if she were a teacher trying to expand his vocabulary, she added, "We're Danes. We're speaking Danish."
"Ah, Danish," said the owner. "That's difficult. A very difficult language."
"Not for Danes," said the girl and laughed so you could see all her strong white teeth, obviously a product of Danish dental hygiene.
[Thanks to Tiina and Steve for the translation and the gift of the book]