Archives for Spain

My Top 5 books about Andalucía

Andalucía is a second home to me, so much so that I set part of my second novel Connectedness there. As some of you will know, I have a second blog at Notes on a Spanish Valley where I write about our life in the Spanish countryside. When fellow Brit in Spain, Alastair Savage, reflected on his favourite books about Barcelona I decided to undertake the same exercise for Andalucía. This is my choice. I have avoided ‘general’ books about Spain such as Giles Tremlett’s excellent Ghosts of Spain, one of Alastair’s picks, and have concentrated on Andalucía. Four of the five are memoirs. If you read them, let me know what you think. Read Alastair’s guide to Barcelona books here. ‘Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía’ by Penelope Chetwode I love my secondhand copy of this slim book for its pale blue cover. Penelope Chetwode, wife of poet John Betjeman, takes a circular ride on her horse Marquesa, around the countryside between Granada and Úbeda in Andalucía in 1961. Charming, quirky. Read my full review of Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía here. ‘Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía’ by Penelope Chetwode [UK: Eland] ‘South from Granada’ by Gerald Brenan Decades before ex-Genesis drummer Chris
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Categories: Book Love and On Researching.

Book Review: The Anarchist Detective

This was the first of the Jason Webster 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,
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: A Death in Valencia

This 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 by Jason Webster 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. 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
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Or the Bull Kills You

This is the first of the stories by Jason Webster 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? Webster [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. If you like ‘Or the Bull Kills You’, try the other Max Cámara novels:- ‘A Death in Valencia’ #2 by Jason Webster ‘The Anarchist Detective’ #3 by Jason Webster ‘Blood Med’ #4 by Jason Webster ‘Or the Bull Kills You’, Max Cámara
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Categories: Book Love.

A gradual coming together

I think it was Stephen King who said his ideas come in bits and pieces over years, all nonsense, until one day something clicks and he adds together a bit of this and a bit of that, and he has the outline of a novel. It’s a bit like that for me, a gradual coming together. Thanks to Cay at Life of Chi, for nominating me for this blog tour about how we writers, write. She is 150,000 words into the first draft of her novel, and still writing! How do you start your writing projects? My current project Connectedness is the second novel in the series about Rose Haldane, identity detective. Having solved the mystery of her own adoption, she is asked by a famous artist to find the baby she gave away for adoption. I knew before I finished the first book about Rose, Ignoring Gravity, that I would write more about adoption. Connectedness is not a sequel, although there are some continuing characters. So oddly there was no actual ‘start point’, I just started jotting down thoughts in an ‘Ideas’ document. At that point, the book was called ‘Rose2’. Then when I found myself at a natural break in
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Hidden Assassins

The pace of this thriller by Robert Wilson 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. This is the third of 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
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Silent and the Damned

Second in the Javier Falcón series by Robert Wilson, 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
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Blood Med

Page 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. 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
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Blind Man of Seville

The first time I heard of the Javier Falcón books by Robert Wilson 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
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Categories: Book Love.

The sunny, Sunshine Award

This is a very pretty award logo, it makes me smile and I think the title is very apt. Thank you so much to Cay at Life of Chi for the nomination. Cay is originally from Norway so English is not her mother tongue, she claims her vocabulary is limited and to be a terrible speller, but I would never have guessed she was not English. Her novel, Life of Chi is being published in short instalments on her blog Life of Chi. In accepting the award I have to answer these questions:- What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten? Don’t be daft, I don’t eat weird food: I’m a vegetarian [okay, I do eat fish]. What is your biggest accomplishment? Finishing Ignoring Gravity and planning a series of novels to follow it, all about Rose Haldane, identity detective. It’s been a long time in the planning. What is your biggest regret? Not taking a year out between A’levels and university to travel the world. I started travelling in my mid-20s as a journalist but, on reflection, I think I missed out. I had to wait many years to make it to The Maldives [below] but it was
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Categories: On Writing.