review, Spain, Translated

This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets

thistooshallpassThis Too Shall Pass is a slim novel about a forty-something woman going through grief after her mother’s death. I picked it out because I’m always looking for new-to-me translated authors, and it sounded a little like a Ferrante novel. Unfortunately this book suffers in comparison. The main character’s meltdown isn’t nearly as harrowing as the main character’s in Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment, and the easygoing style of a long trip to the beach just didn’t have the same sort of pacing and urgency as the Ferrante. I know I should judge the book on its own merits, but it seems obvious to me that the book was picked for publication to take advantage of the craze over Ferrante, so I’m going to go with it.

This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets, translated by Valerie Miles

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher via Blogging for Books.

review, Spain, Translated

The Good Suicides by Antonio Hill

good suicidesThe Good Suicides by Antonio Hill, translated by Laura McGloughlin
Crown, June 2014
Inspector Salgado  book 2
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Héctor Salgado  is a police inspector from Argentina who lives and works in Barcelona, and this particular novel takes place six months after the disappearance of his estranged wife Ruth and the end of a particularly violent case that was featured in the first novel, The Summer of Dead Toys. Besides the case of Salgado’s wife’s disappearance, the novel focuses on the apparent suicides of several people who work for Alemany Cosmetics. That investigation slows the book down, I think, and I think it comes down to the fact that I didn’t particularly feel invested in their stories.

My copy of the novel calls it a thriller, but only the first and last sections of the book feel thriller-esque in terms of pacing and reveals. I’m not sure what the marketing or book-cataloging logic was for calling this a thriller: police procedural is not so catchy, perhaps.  It’s a good police procedural, with the caveat that the Alemany Cosmetics investigation led by Salgado is just part of the story. The other and stronger part of the book is Leire Castro’s unofficial investigation into Ruth’s disappearance. Castro is an interesting character: she is a young, female detective young and about to give birth. She stands in contrast to the divorced and depressed Salgado, and what she eventually uncovers makes the story very powerful.

I was a very big fan of the first book in this series, The Summer of Dead Toys, and this book, the second in a proposed trilogy, was a solid entry but not as outstanding as the first novel.

Other reviews appear in EuroCrime (Laura), The Game’s Afoot (Jose Ignacio), and crimepieces (Sarah).

2013 Translation Challenge, review, Spain, Translated

The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill

summer dead toysThe Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill, translated by Laura McGoughlin
Crown, June 2013

Disclosure: I received an e-galley from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Summer of Dead Toys is one of my favorite reads of the year, and it’s definitely my favorite debut novel of the year. It has an interesting protagonist, Héctor Salgado who sounds like a typical divorced detective with anger management issues, but Hill turns him into a much more rounded character than that. It has other interesting police characters, and it has a morally complex set of crimes to unravel.

The Summer of Dead Toys takes place in Barcelona during a very hot summer. Our main character is Inspector Salgado, a native Argentinian, who returns to Barcelona at the beginning of the novel after a month of leave after he beat Dr. Omar, a suspected human trafficker, quite viciously. He is put in charge of an unofficial investigation into the suicide of Marc Castells, a young man who is the son wealthy man who’s considering moving from the private sector into politics.

Why am I so impressed? Hill handles two plots in great detail: the case of Marc Castells and the case of Dr.Omar. Hill spends plenty of time with his characters, including the police officers, to actually give them backstories instead of just doling out a few details in this book before doling out more in subsequent ones.  I’m also grateful that he spent time with not only Salgado but also his new partner Leire Castro and his superiors. Too often the focus in a police procedural is on the main investigator.

The pacing felt a bit sluggish to me in the first half, and I think that reflects the morass of the investigation in the first half of it. It could also be because the characters are pretty rich, self-absorbed people.

Another highlight was how horrid the crimes were that were uncovered during the course of the book. Sometimes the horror of murder and more take a back seat to the main characters heroics. I also liked the fact that there wasn’t a violent showdown at the end of the book, which I think is an overused plot device.  I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series, The Good Suicides.

Other reviews of The Summer of Dead Toys appear in Eurocrime and The Game’s Afoot.