Or the Bull Kills You by Jason Webster

Published by Vintage Books

Either you kill the bull, or the bull kills you - traditional proverb.

Chief Inspector Max Camara hates bullfighting, but one hot afternoon in Valencia he has to replace his boss, judging a festival corrida that stars Spain’s most famous matador. That night, he is summoned back to bullring where the young bullfighter’s dead body now lies, naked and mutilated.

As the city prepares for Fallas, the five-day festival of fireworks and bonfires, and the politicians work feverishly towards an election, Camara hunts down his prey through the city’s streets and bars. But while he follows the trail of death, money, corruption and sex in search of the killer, he must also battle his own demons and desires . . . 

As though designed to give me the kick up the pants I may well need (see previous post), only yesterday morning the postman brought me the second book in this great new series (A Death in Valencia) and, if the first book was anything to go by, I am in for yet another enthralling and charismatic read.

Whilst it may be true to say that Jason Webster’s central character has many of the trappings of many a fictional detective, those trappings and baggages are there for a reason, they make our cops interesting to read and to follow through long running series. In the character’s own words ‘There he was, Max Camara, a dope-smoking, Fallas-hating, proverb-quoting, flamenco-loving, Valencia-based murder detective with the Policia Nacional, with a complicated, shattered love life, no social life to speak of, and a career lying in tatters.’ and I loved every aspect of his character for all of those reasons.

As the bodies start to pile up and Camara races around the city seeking answers, the plot twists as fast as the streets of Valencia and the place itself becomes a very important and beautiful central character, so whilst I want to read more of Camara, I also want to read more of Valencia – and to get there someday too. In much the same way as David Hewson does with his Nic Costa novels, the atmosphere of the locale is captured perfectly through it’s sounds, smells, food, drink and its people.

The whole area of bullfighting wasn’t a theme I thought would be very successful in terms of providing any possible motives or a great range of suspects for the murder – how wrong was I? – It was the perfect setting and an unsettling picture of just some of the things that go on, and some that might go on within the ‘sport’, as well as a strangely alluring subject matter. Whilst I’m pretty confident that I still do not want to watch a bullfight, the whole atmosphere and the spectacle of the festivals that surround them are clearly all-consuming, as is this book.

Highly recommended – go get yourselves a new detective and a new place to read about.

Keith

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