The 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.