Book review: The Blind Man of Seville

the blind man of seville by robert wilson 31-12-13aThe first time I heard of the Javier Falcón books was when the first was dramatized on TV, and unfortunately I missed it. So it was with anticipation that I turned to the first of the four books, The Blind Man of Seville. My first impression was that it was the longest detective book I’d read in a while, but the reason for this soon became apparent: the back story in Tangiers. In a note at the back of the book, Wilson directs his readers to the full-length diaries he wrote for Francisco Falcón, Javier’s late father, artist, Tangiers resident and key character in The Blind Man of Seville.

It is a complicated novel, entangling the Spanish legal system, bullfighting, the worlds of art and restaurants, Seville, Tangiers and the theme which lurks just below the surface of everyday Spain: the Spanish Civil War. There is something about the first murder which slowly tips Inspector Falcón towards mental breakdown. Like all detectives, the interest lies in his frailties, how he overcomes them and manages to do the day job, how he outwits the criminal mind.

Francisco’s diaries are fascinating; an insight into the Spanish Legion, its time in Morocco and Russia, the brutality and hardships, the sense of brotherhood. The diaries in their entirety are available to read at Robert Wilson’s website, here, but do not read them until you have finished the book. At times as Javier reads his father’s story, the story churns his guts; mine too. Anyone who has read anything about the Civil War will anticipate some of the brutality. Wilson skilfully weaves this storyline into the modern day hunt for a murderer.

This is far from a formulaic detective story. Wilson writes about heavy subjects with a confident hand, and creates atmosphere easily. “The hotel had suffered in the intervening half-century. There was a glass panel missing from one of the doors in his room. Paint peeled off the metal windows. The furniture looked as if it had taken refuge from a violent husband. But there was a perfect view of the bay of Tangier and Falcón sat on the bed and gaped at it, while thoughts of deracination spread through his mind.”

This is the first book of a quartet about Javier Falcón. The second in the series is The Silent and the Damned, to be reviewed soon.
‘The Blind Man of Seville’ by Robert Wilson

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