Destination: Barcelona Spain
Book: The Good Suicides by Antonio Hill. (New June 2014)
This novel follows one I reviewed recently, Summer of Dead Toys. In fact, Summer of Dead Toys ended with a teaser to lead you to this book. I found the teaser irresistible. Of course the books can be read in any order, but I like following the progression of a detective’s personal life as it unfolds in a series by reading the earlier ones first.
In The Good Suicides, we puzzle with Antonio Hill over whether there can be a “good” suicide, what can drive a person to the point of suicide, and when what looks like a suicide may actually be a murder. Group dynamics play a large part in this story and so we wonder about the effect of being part of a group. And of course suspense builds as we wonder if there will be more victims. Hill, a psychologist, brings his knowledge into play not only in developing characters, but also in knowing how to interest us.
Most of this plays out in a city popular with travelers–Barcelona. As a traveler who reads, you’ll learn quite a bit about the culture of modern day Spain.
Antonio Hill changes up the main characters a bit in his second novel, The Good Suicides. Barcelona Policeman Héctor Salgado is off probation and back on the job, although ordered not to pursue the disappearance of his ex-wife, Ruth. His young partner Leire is supposed to be on maternity leave, but she is itching to get back to work, and “unofficially” picks up the investigation of Ruth’s absence. This necessitates the introduction of another female police officer, Martina Andreu.
The other change I enjoyed was in climate. If you read the review, or the book, Summer of Dead Toys, you may remember that the sultry heat of Barcelona summer established an atmosphere that added to the drama. The Good Suicides takes place in Barcelona’s winter, and instead of seeking shade, the characters are wanting to be inside with a cup of hot coffee. The shivers are not all metaphorical.
Hill’s use of weather to establish mood and believability reminds me of the emphasis on weather in the four books of the Copenhagen Quartet by Thomas E. Kennedy. [No wonder I’m thinking about Kennedy’s work–his final book in the Copenhagen Quartet, Beneath the Neon Egg, is the subject of the next review you can read here at A Traveler’s Library.]
Antonio Hill’s work is full of delightful turns of phrase that seem totally perfect–and totally unique. For instance this description of a place:
Empty apartments are like actresses in decline, thought Leire. Well kept, always awaiting the arrival of the person who gives them meaning so that they can once again become welcoming, lively spaces, they never manage to shake off a dusty, rancid air, an aspect of assumed neglect that repels rather than attracts.
And this one of action as detectives drive into the mountains:
Lola clung to the door handle as the car stumbled along, nervous, faster than the terrain permitted.
Ever think of your car as nervous before?
I was also impressed by the author’s thumbnail sketches of the people in this novel, even those who served only as background to the story, like this in a bar.
While they were talking, the young customer had decided to leave the virtual world and return to his true occupation, that of a tourist, and the waitress was still standing motionless behind the bar, less beautiful than she believed herself to be.
Another person–this time a main character.
She had lovely dark hair and a tense expression, but it was precisely that expression which rendered her neutral features, too correct to be beautiful, attractive. Mar Ródenas, like her brother, belonged to the immense group of people neither handsome nor ugly. They lack intensity, Ruth always used to say…
While I truly enjoyed reading Antonio Hill’s fresh metaphors and was impressed by his skills of observation, I do have one complaint about his characters. There are so many of them, and he has not found a way to remind the reader who someone is when they re-enter the book after an absence. I frequently got lost, and had to backtrack to remind myself who I was reading about.
The structure of the novel leads to this problem, since it is arranged in sections that focus on specific characters, who generally return to play a role in the section focusing on someone else.
The plot is complex. It starts simply enough with a woman’s body discovered on the Metro tracks–an apparent suicide. But digging into the death, Héctor discovers that there was another suicide among workers in the company where this woman is employed as a personal assistant. It is difficult to believe that two suicides in such a short time are a coincidence. And more people will die.
From there, he explores the dynamics of the cosmetics company, headed by a brother and sister, until he teases out the complicated relationships and the causes for suicides. And/or murders.
Meanwhile in another thread, Leire is trying to figure out what happened to the missing Ruth as the pregnant cop gets closer and closer to the time for her delivery.
The Good Suicides (a bit of a stretch for a title) impressed me as much as Hill’s first book. And guess what? Once again, the book ends with a teaser to lure you into book number three.
I am not going to repeat everything that I said about the author’s background and about Barcelona. You can look back at the review of Summer of Dead Toys for that information. I will just add that it seems to be a tradition that second books are a disappointment. That is definitely not the case with The Good Suicides. I think readers and Antonio Hill have a long and happy relationship in front of them.
Notes: The publisher sent me a copy of this book for review. My opinions, nevertheless are always my own.
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