Saturday, October 13, 2007

Spanish Detective Fiction: The Petra Delicado Series

From Prime Time Suspect:

I reached the conclusion that there ought to be convents for non-believers, bruised, exhausted people, in need of solitude, but who did not want to have to give up all the pleasures of life. What about sex and love? Would they all have to give that up, too, or risk the convent becoming a brothel within three days of being set up? What would the community live off? Where did monks and nuns get there money from, anyway? Did they still make sweet liqueurs and embroidery? How to finance the thing? That would be the reatest problem, as always. Money, money, money. I thought about the case again. How was Moliner getting on with the minister? We had arranged to meet at nine in the hotel, where he had also reserved a room. Perhaps he would tell me then...

Europa Editions ( now offers two Petra Delicado mysteries, translated from the Spanish; a third one is planned for 2008. That's half the volumes already in print in Spain in this enormously popular series by Alicia Giménez-Bartlett, who had already brought out from 19996 to 2006 six of the projected thirteen books in this detective sequence. In Spain there's even a TV version available, and Giménez-Bartlett won the 1997 Feminino Lumen prize for best female writer in Spainm, as well as the Baccante literary prize.

Europa offers Dog Day (first in the series) and the sequel Prime Time Suspect, which I enjoyed over the summer. Delicado is a Barcelona Police Inspector with a partner, Sgt. Fermin Garzon, who assists her in navigating the webs of politics and departmental finances while investigating capital murder. Without losing her sense of humor or her sensuality, Delicado provides a tough driven career approach; Garzon takes the softer, more sentimental route and frustrates his boss by not seeing the underside of people as readily.

In Prime Time Suspect, the death of a television journalist links to that of another celebrity; blackmail seems a likely factor. But whether Delicado will get to handle her case at all -- she is transferred almost at once -- and whether the hornets' nest of accusations will become too "political" for the police department to pursue continue to dog her progress.

Nick Caistor translated both this one and Dog Day; although he sometimes slips among forms of language and American terms, the distractions aren't significant. I would guess the original Spanish had more distinctive voices for the characters, but that too is a small complaint compared to the pleasure of digging into a new series and a compelling plot-driven mystery. And through it all, the savor of a modern Spanish police inspector, full of life and appetite, comes through the language gap very clearly.

Coming up in 2008: Death Rites, with another translator. I'll be ordering my copy in advance.

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