FORGOTTEN BOOKS: OFF SIDE!
MANUEL VAZQUEZ MONTALBAN
With the World Cup spiraling up to the final game this Sunday, I’m offering up one last soccer mystery. This time it’s a great mystery with soccer well woven in to the story – call it soccer noir . . .
With Spain playing in the World Cup Final against the Netherlands, this week’s Forgotten Books choice is also quite appropriate.
Born and Living in Barcelona, author Manuel Vazquez Montalban infuses his fast-living, gourmet private eye character, Pepe Carvalho, with a European sensibility – specifically, a Spanish sensibility – which makes him unique. There is a great flavor of Barcelona, Madrid, and all of Spain in these pages, plus an understanding of how important soccer/football is to its inhabitants – especially when the home team is led by an expensive foreigner.
Montalban is a master of the mystery trade having won both the Spanish Planeta Prize and the French Grand Prix of Detective Fiction.
Paella, death, and an English centre forward
“Because you use your centre forward to make yourselves feel like gods who can manage victories and defeats, from the comfortable throne of minor Caesars: the centre forward will be killed at dusk.”
To revive its sagging fortunes, Barcelona FC has brought the services of Jack Mortimer, European Footballer of the Year. No sooner has Mortimer taken possession of his company Porsche that the death threats start arriving. Are they a hoax, the work of a loner, or are they connected to the awesome real estate speculation that is tearing Barcelona apart?
In a period of turmoil where Catalan pimps and racketeers are being hustled off the streets by crime syndicates from the Middle East, Pepe Carvalho is thinking of retirement, but the need to save the soul of his beloved Barcelona forces him to take on a case that can only end in disaster.
I really enjoy the Pepe Carvalho stories and highly recommend at least giving them a try – one taste and you’ll be hooked.