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The Blind Man of Seville
Robert Wilson
After trying his hand at spy fiction in The Company of Strangers, Robert Wilson returns to his detective-thriller roots with The Blind Man of Seville, a grimly bewitching and character-driven yarn about people confronting their most hidden horrors.

"It was only right that there should be at least one murder in Holy Week," muses Inspector Jefe Javier Falcón as he's called out during Spain's Semana Santa festivities to probe the death of a prosperous Seville restaurateur, Raúl Jiménez. The deceased was found strapped to a chair with his eyelids removed, facing a television on which had been showing a video of him entertaining prostitutes. Jiménez's heart had failed as he struggled to escape. This murder is "more extraordinary than any I have seen in my career," Falcón tells the businessman's widow, as he embarks on an investigation that will lead to the slayings of a hooker and an art dealer, and force the homicide cop into a game of wits against a killer obsessed with the contradictions between illusion and reality. Meanwhile, Falcón is himself obsessed with the long-secreted journals kept by his late father, a famous painter, whose brutal acts during the Spanish Civil War and subsequent hedonism in North Africa shaped Javier's life... and will make him the killer's next target.

Wilson's plot turns rather creakily on the coincidence of Falcón discovering a photograph of his father among Jiménez's things. And lengthy excerpts from the elder Falcón's diaries, while they reveal links between the book's secondary players, and are interesting for their portrayal of wartime Europe and postwar Tangier, nonetheless hobble this story's pace and distract from the modern crimes at its center. Still, there's a poetic edge to this author's prose that makes even his most gruesome or tragic scenes worthy of rereading, and in Javier Falcón--a lonely outsider who shadows his ex-wife and has a perplexing aversion to milk--he creates a police protagonist as satisfyingly and humanly flawed as any since Zé Coelho, from Wilson's outstanding A Small Death in Lisbon. --J. Kingston Pierce


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