An accomplished debut mystery set in the high-stakes and decidedly murky world of bullfighting in Valencia, Spain
"Either you kill the bull, or the bull kills you." Chief Inspector Max Cámara thinks in proverbs,and he hates one thing above all: bullfighting. One hot afternoon in Valencia, however, he has to stand in for his boss, judging a festival corrida starring Spain's most famous young matador. That night, he is back in the bullring, and what he finds on the blood-stained sand shocks the city of Valencia to its core. Cámara is roped into investigating a grisly murder while dealing with violent shadows from his own past, as well as confronting the suspiciousness of the bullfighting community and the stonewalling of local politicians in full electoral campaign. To top it all, Fallas, the loudest fiesta in the country, has just got underway. For Cámara, it seems his problems have only just begun...
Either you kill the bull, or the bull kills you
Saturday 11th March
Chief Inspector Max Cámara of the Valencia Cuerpo Nacional de Policía cast a dark eye over the other guests at the Bar Los Toros, and sniffed.
Stopping by the Jefatura after lunch had been a mistake.
'Cámara, there's no one else around. You'll have to stand in for me.'
The idea had been to run in quickly to see if he was owed any leave. Fallas was coming, Valencia's pyromaniac spring fiesta, and he was hoping to get out of the city until it was over. But he could still hear Pardo's voice as the commissioner raced through the door, his wife waiting for him outside in a taxi with their three-year-old. There had been no time to remind Pardo he knew nothing about bullfighting, or that he hated it: a daughter with suspected meningitis took precedence over everything. Still, someone else could have stepped in. Maldonado, perhaps. He would have revelled in the pomp and glory....
Beyond Max's sharply drawn character, Webster weaves a finely intricate mystery with political intrigue, social commentary, and sufficient cultural background for those of us unfamiliar with Spain's complex relationship with bullfighting... Despite a couple minute points off for drawing Max too like other fictional crime fighters, Webster's protagonist is strong enough and the narrative well-crafted enough to stand this series debut in good stead among its peers. I really can't wait to read more about Max and Spain.
(Reviewed by Donna Chavez).
Full Review (554 words).
Bullfighting - drenched in symbolism, embedded in tradition - is as synonymous with Spanish culture as flamenco dancing and paella. It is a centuries-old blood sport to beat all blood sports with its ceremonial battle to the death between man and beast. An uneven playing field? Perhaps. Only recently, thousands of stunned fans, both in person and on television, witnessed as a bull gored then pinned to the ground matador Juan José Padilla, severely injuring his face, eye and head. This happened in Madrid just days after a final bullfight played out in Barcelona, capital of the Catalonia region of Spain, where the sport has recently been banned amid a swirl of controversy.
Reportedly, deputies in the local Catalonian parliament ...
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