Tag Archives: Spain

Book Review: The Anarchist Detective

the anarchist detective by jason webster 18-6-14This was the first of Webster’s detective series about Max Cámara which I have read, but it’s not the first in the series. It’s the third, but this turned out not to be a problem, I didn’t feel a lack of back-story.

The story was interesting enough, two strands combining a saffron scam and unearthing the truth about Max’s great-grandfather in the Spanish Civil war [not much of a surprise that, for an author who has written non-fiction about the war]. But there was something missing, for me, something I couldn’t put my finger on. The plot was fine, the history was fine and no doubt accurately portrayed. It was only when I finished the book and described it to my husband that I realized what my difficulty was: Max is a Spanish character, written by an Englishman. Albeit an Englishman who lives in Spain, is married to a Spaniard and who speaks the language fluently. But still, not a Spaniard. I’d expected more, well, ‘Spanish-ness’.

I can see a TV series here, along the lines of Falcón based on Robert Wilson’s Seville detective Javier Falcón. I can picture the scene in the saffron village in La Mancha, very photogenic. Jason Webster [below] will write a rich series of Max Cámara novels, I’m sure.

[photo: jasonwebster.net]

[photo: jasonwebster.net]

For more about Jason Webster’s other novels including non-fiction books about Spain, click here.
To read my review of the first Max Cámara novel, Or the Bull Kills You, click here.
To read the second, A Death in Valencia, click here.
And the fourth, Blood Med, click here.

‘The Anarchist Detective’ by Jason Webster [pub in the UK by Vintage]

Book review: A Death in Valencia

a death in valencia by jason webster 16-7-14This is a book about more than a singular death, it is an exploration of the nature of death and what constitutes murder. Max Cámara, the Valencia detective introduced in Or the Bull Kills You, cannot sleep: his street is being dug up as the new Metro line is being built, the summer heat pulsates, and Valencia is crazy as it prepares for the arrival of the Pope.

The city buzzes with pro- and anti-Catholic emotions, with pro-life and pro-choice campaigners lining up their arguments for the Pope. Meanwhile the police force prepares security for the visit, as a developer is ripping up the old fisherman’s quarter El Cabanyal [below] to build new apartment blocks. On the first page, a dead body is washed up on the shore. A well-known paella chef.

[photo: masialavanda.com]

[photo: masialavanda.com]

Max has eaten the chef’s paella but is taken off the case to help hunt for a kidnapped woman, a gynaecologist who performs abortions. The eve of the Pope’s visit is the worst possible time for this to happen. As always seems to happen in crime novels, two seemingly separate incidents are linked. The link, in this case, is carefully plotted so I didn’t spot it until the end. For me, this is a deeper more intelligent novel than the first in the Max Cámara series [there are now four], perhaps because the author is settling into the genre and the character.

I must add that Valencia simply rocks in this book, it comes alive off the page, the heat, the tension, the grief. I can smell the summer dust.

To read my review of Or the Bull Kills You, Jason Webster’s first book about Max Cámara, click here.

[photo: dailymail.co.uk]

[photo: dailymail.co.uk]

To watch a video where Jason Webster [above] explains how he wrote A Death in Valencia and how real life influenced the plot, click here.
To watch a film about El Cabanyal, and the threat it still faces from developers, click here. The film is directed by Tristan Martin and narrated by Nigel Planer.
Click here for Jason Webster’s website for more about Max Cámara, Webster’s travel writing about Spain and a new history book, The Spy with 29 Names.

‘A Death in Valencia’ by Jason Webster [Vintage]

Book review: Or the Bull Kills You

or the bull kills you by jason webster 16-10-13 (2)This is the first of Jason Webster’s stories about Spanish detective Max Cámara. The setting is Valencia during Fallas, the five-day festival of fireworks and bonfires.

A bullfighter is murdered, a controversial bullfighter, in a city undergoing local elections and with a strong anti-taurino lobby. Webster has chosen his setting well, Valencia is a noisy, shouting, breathing presence on every page. The bullfighting is strange, a world of customs and special language, its symbolism machismo. Into the middle of all this walks the Fallas-hating, bullfight-disapproving detective who’s having a difficult time with his girlfriend. And he’s being reviewed at work for his behaviour in a previous case.

Is there one killer or two, and what about the dead bullfighter’s artist boyfriend and his very-public fiancé? jason webster - photo jasonwebster.net 14-5-14Webster [above] keeps the page turning with ease.

To learn more about Jason Webster’s fiction and non-fiction books, visit his website here.
To take a video tour of Jason Webster’s Valencia, click here.
To read my review of Blood Red, the fourth in the Max Cámara series, click here.
Reviews of the second and third books in the Max Cámara series are coming soon.
‘Or the Bull Kills You’ by Jason Webster

Book review: The Hidden Assassins

The pace of this thriller does not stop. The setting: Seville, Spain. The beginning: a mutilated corpse is found on a rubbish dump. The first turning point: an explosion at a block of flats turns out to be a terrorism attack on the mosque in the basement. Or is it? Detective Javier Falcón is swept along by the media circus and political panic as fear of a widescale attack on Andalucía grips Spain.

Javier Falcón played by Marton Csokas [photo: Sky]

Javier Falcón played by Marton Csokas [photo: Sky]

This is the third of Robert Wilson’s four-book series about Falcón and the story twists and turns relentlessly. The plotting is excellent, I challenge you to work out the answers. As Javier unravels the knots you don’t know what to believe and neither does he.

I am fascinated by the insight into Falcón’s life provided by glimpses of his cooking. His housekeeper leaves his food in the fridge for him to prepare in the evening. He is something of a cook. “Encarnación had left him some fresh pork fillet. He made a salad and sliced up some potatoes and the meat. He smashed up some cloves of garlic, threw them into the frying pan with the pork fillet and chips. He dashed some cheap whisky on top and let it catch fire from the gas flame. He ate without thinking about the food and drank a glass of red rioja to loosen up his mind.” And then he goes out to work again. It is 10pm.

I will not give away the plot details, but there are sub-plots too involving characters who featured in books one and two: Javier’s ex-wife Inés and her husband the judge Esteban Calderón, his ex-girlfriend Consuelo, his sister Manuela.

As always, Seville is an additional character. Its streets, the heat, the lifestyle. It makes me want to go there now.

For my review of The Blind Man of Seville, the first of the Javier Falcón series, click here.
Click here to read my review of The Silent and the Damned, the second in the series.
To see the study where Robert Wilson writes at home in Portugal, click here.
To watch the trailer ‘Behind the Scenes: Made in Seville’ for the Sky Atlantic Falcón television series, click here.
For information about visiting Seville including the city, hotels, events, and the surrounding countryside, click here.

The fourth and final book in the Javier Falcón series is The Ignorance of Blood, will be reviewed here soon.

the hidden assassins by robert wilson 3-5-14


‘The Hidden Assassins’ by Robert Wilson [pub by Harper]

Book review: The Silent and the Damned

the silent and the damned by robert wilson 24-2-14Second in the Javier Falcón series set in Seville. Santa Clara is a wealthy neighbourhood where people stay inside their elegant air-conditioned homes and don’t mix much with their neighbours. Very un-Spanish. And then people start dying.

First, a husband and wife. Was it one murder and a suicide, or a double-murder? Falcón investigates only to find, living opposite the murdered couple, the wife of his last murder victim [in The Blind Man of Seville]. And this is how Robert Wilson neatly intertwines the back story from the first novel, bringing forward the things a new reader needs to know. Falcón has moved on since then, gone are the formal suits, now he wears a shirt and chinos and seems more relaxed, more at peace with himself. But this is a detective novel, and detectives are traditionally troubled souls so it is not long before the cracks appear.

The deaths keeping coming in the 40° heat, Falcón must deal with the impending marriage of his ex-wife plus the growing suspicion that all is not well at police headquarters. There are links to characters in the first book, dodgy characters, further crimes are hinted at. Will he be allowed to continue his investigation, or will higher powers decree his case unviable? And does Javier Falcón have the mental energy left to care?

An excellent follow-up to The Blind Man of Seville, click here for my review. I read this book quicker than the first, I think because of the familiarity of the character. I understand now why the books were serialised on Sky Atlantic.

Click here to find out how this second book got its name, and why Robert Wilson originally wanted to call it The Vanished Hands.

Click here to watch Robert Wilson interviewed on The Murder Room. He talks about writing crime fiction, why people want to read about criminals, and why the crime novel he most admires is George V Higgins’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle.
‘The Silent and the Damned’ by Robert Wilson

Book review: Blood Med

blood med by jason webster 14-5-14Page one, Spain waits, the king lies dying. There is the feeling of a nation on the edge. In Valencia, there are homeless on the street, immigrants are being harassed, the police department faces cutbacks despite rumblings of public unrest, and there are not enough drugs for the sick.

Blood Med is the fourth in the Cámara Valencia-based detective series by Jason Webster [below]. There are two deaths and Cámara and his colleague Torres are given one case each, the hidden agenda is that one of the two men must be made redundant. One death is suspected suicide, the other a brutal murder. In the way of crime fiction, you know there will be a connection but that connection is of course invisible at the beginning.

[photo: Mark Pringle]

[photo: Mark Pringle]

The detective, orphaned young and raised by his grandfather, now lives in Valencia with elderly Hilario plus Max’s girlfriend, journalist Alicia. Both Hilario and Alicia have key roles in this story. Hilario is a huge influence on Max’s approach to life, and he often recalls his grandfather’s fondness for proverbs when he finds himself in a sticky situation. ‘Visteme despacio que tengo prisa’ he tells himself when he feels the investigation is being rushed. It translates as ‘Dress me slowly, I’m in a rush’. He feels the investigation has tunnel vision; that it is being rushed and would benefit from a step back. “If he could have his way he would send everyone home for the rest of the day to switch off. Go to the beach, go wherever. And have sex – with someone else if possible. If not, whatever. If helped clear the mind.”

[photo: es.wikipedia.org]

[photo: es.wikipedia.org]

This is the most accomplished Cámara novel so far, the setting in Valencia [above] is so strong and the political background feels very real. The ‘corralito’ described [the government decree to close the banks] feels very real. There are a lot more stories to come in Max Cámara’s Valencia.

For more about Jason Webster’s novels and non-fiction books about Spain, click here.
For information about visiting Valencia, click here.
Watch out for my reviews of the other three novels in the Max Cámara series, coming here soon.
‘Blood Med’ by Jason Webster [published in the UK on June 5, 2014 by Vintage]

Book review: The Blind Man of Seville

the blind man of seville by robert wilson 31-12-13aThe first time I heard of the Javier Falcón books was when the first was dramatized on TV, and unfortunately I missed it. So it was with anticipation that I turned to the first of the four books, The Blind Man of Seville. My first impression was that it was the longest detective book I’d read in a while, but the reason for this soon became apparent: the back story in Tangiers. In a note at the back of the book, Wilson directs his readers to the full-length diaries he wrote for Francisco Falcón, Javier’s late father, artist, Tangiers resident and key character in The Blind Man of Seville.

It is a complicated novel, entangling the Spanish legal system, bullfighting, the worlds of art and restaurants, Seville, Tangiers and the theme which lurks just below the surface of everyday Spain: the Spanish Civil War. There is something about the first murder which slowly tips Inspector Falcón towards mental breakdown. Like all detectives, the interest lies in his frailties, how he overcomes them and manages to do the day job, how he outwits the criminal mind.

Francisco’s diaries are fascinating; an insight into the Spanish Legion, its time in Morocco and Russia, the brutality and hardships, the sense of brotherhood. The diaries in their entirety are available to read at Robert Wilson’s website here, but do not read them until you have finished the book. At times as Javier reads his father’s story, the story churns his guts; mine too. Anyone who has read anything about the Civil War will anticipate some of the brutality. Wilson skilfully weaves this storyline into the modern day hunt for a murderer.

This is far from a formulaic detective story. Wilson writes about heavy subjects with a confident hand, and creates atmosphere easily. “The hotel had suffered in the intervening half-century. There was a glass panel missing from one of the doors in his room. Paint peeled off the metal windows. The furniture looked as if it had taken refuge from a violent husband. But there was a perfect view of the bay of Tangier and Falcón sat on the bed and gaped at it, while thoughts of deracination spread through his mind.”

This is the first book of a quartet about Javier Falcón. The second in the series is The Silent and the Damned, to be reviewed soon.

Click here to watch Robert Wilson’s Falcón Tour of Seville.
‘The Blind Man of Seville’ by Robert Wilson