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I Love a Mystery: I would never have heard of this superb author if Europa Editions had not issued DOG DAY, a magnificent book.

Date: Oct 24 2006

Reviews from MADDY VAN HERTBRUGGEN

DOG DAY
ALICIA GIMENEZ-BARTLETT
Translated from the Spanish by Nicholas Caistor
Europa Editions  Trade PBO 6/06
ISBN: 1933372141


Here in the United States , there's been a welcome new trend in the publishing industry, and that is the growth of several new presses who are translating the works of top authors around the world and releasing them internationally.  It's been wonderful to find authors who are highly acclaimed in their home countries made more widely accessible.  As a result, I've recently been exposed to some excellent writing  —  Arnaldur Indriđason, Fred Vargas, Karin Fossum, Henning Mankell, and many more.  And now I can add Alicia Giménez-Bartlett from to that list.  Even though Gimenez-Bartlett was the 1997 winner of the Feminino Lumen prize for the best female writer in , I would never have heard of this superb author if Europa Editions had not issued DOG DAY, a magnificent book.

Set in Barcelona , DOG DAY features Detective Petra Delicado and her partner, Fermin Garzon.  They are assigned a relatively thankless case involving the vicious beating of an unknown lower class guy, Ignacio Lucena Pastor, who goes by a variety of names.  Living in squalor, his only possession is an ugly-looking dog which Petra nicknames "Freaky" and ultimately adopts.  When Pastor dies, Delicado feels a strong need to make sure that justice is served, even for someone whose life essentially meant nothing.  As she and Fermin investigate, they find that Pastor was selling dogs to universities for research; eventually, he found a more lucrative means of making money by going into dog trafficking.  That, in turn, leads to dealing with a group of very nefarious characters.

There are a lot of dead ends in the investigation, and it moves forward slowly.  Petra is determined to find the answers; Fermin, on the other hand, is more concerned about his private life.  His first marriage was basically loveless; now he's in his 50s, somewhat portly and not exactly the first choice for casting Casanova.  However, against all odds, he manages to attract not one, but two beautiful and intelligent women.  As you might imagine, he's like a kid in a candy store.  It's touching to see this good man find such happiness, even if all doesn't end well.

Petra is a completely unique character.  It's hard to find the right words to use to describe her.  She goes beyond the usual "feisty" that we like to apply to independent female characters.  She's a bit cranky, a bit roguish, but in her heart, dedicated to the cause of achieving justice for the little people.  She has a kind of cheerful fatalism, but she also has a sense of humor.  She is having her own love life issues.  She's not into romance and candlelight and all of the little niceties of love.  Instead, she prefers good friendship and good sex.

I loved DOG DAY.  In addition to the top-notch characterization, the procedural aspects of the book were well portrayed.  Hats off to the translator, Nicholas Caistor, for incorporating the wonderful humor of the book in such a natural way.  I believe that there are six Delicado mysteries, and I eagerly await their translation, as they will be Must Read books for me.  I sure hope I don't have to wait long!