Monday, July 5, 2010

Review of Water-Blue Eyes by Domingo Villar (Eurocrime, 2008; Spanish 2006)

High up in a duplex apartment in a luxury harbour front apartment in Vigo, Galicia, Luis Reigosa dies an agonising death whilst tied to his bed.  Inspector Leo Caldas, known throughout the city for his weekly appearances on the radio show Patrol on the Air, is assigned to the case, along with his short-tempered and aggressive sidekick, Rafael Estevez.  Reigosa, a jazz saxophonist, had seemingly been well liked, with his water-blue eyes ensuring an endless stream of lovers.  Yet his death was sadistic and required medical knowledge.  Reigosa’s body and apartment hold few clues, and initially Caldas and Estevez struggle to find a starting point for their investigation, but as they come to understand how he was killed and his lifestyle they slowly piece together what happened that night, and gradually home in on his killer.

There is much to admire in Villar’s writing style, which is concise and expressive, and Water-Blue Eyes is a pleasurable read.  Leo Caldas, as the disillusioned and weary inspector, and his assistant, the explosive Rafael Estevez, are engaging characters, though somewhat enigmatic due the general lack of back story.  In this sense, Villar does a great job at following the ‘show don’t tell’ maxim, but the result is I never really felt I got to know the characters that well beyond broad pointers.  I think this is partly a function of length.  At 167 pages, space delimits the extent to which one gets to know the principal characters using this storytelling technique.  The length also restricts the plot, which is interesting but relatively straightforward, that has a twist at the end.  The plot could have been fleshed out a bit more, especially the ending which is wrapped up conveniently and too quickly.  Basically, I wanted more!  Whilst I did find elements of the book a little disappointing, Water-Blue Eyes has enough positives – such as it style, dry wit and sense of place - to make me want to read the next book in the series.  Indeed, my sense is that Caldas and Estevez hold much promise as a fictional partnership, and Villar’s assured writing will make for an engaging and entertaining read.  For other reviews see Petrona, The Game’s Afoot, and International Noir.

1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - Thanks for this review. I'm glad you brought up the "show, don't tell" point; very often, writers do spend quite a lot too much energy (and too many pages) giving descriptions. I'm glad you didn't find this book to be like that.