Antonio Hill

The Summer of Dead Toys – Antonio Hill

Title – The Summer of Dead Toys

Author – Antonio Hill (translated Laura McGloughlin)

Published – 2012

Genre – Crime fiction

I heard quite a lot about this book when it was first published last year and had been watching out for a copy in my local bookshops. When I saw that this had been by read Mrs P of Mrs Peabody Investigates and mentioned my lack of a copy she very kindly sent me hers :-).

The story is a police procedural set in a very hot Barcelona. Inspector Hector Salgado is the main character and, like DI Damen Brook in The Unquiet Grave, Salgado is returning to work following a suspension – in his case for beating up a suspect in a human trafficking case. Instead of being assigned a case on his return he is asked to “unofficially” investigate the death of a young man who has fallen from a window in his home on the night of San Juan.

The “investigation” involves three wealthy families and there are many layers of intrigue and deceit that Salgado must unravel to try to achieve a resolution for the boy’s mother. As the investigation takes ever more serious turns it becomes more official and delves into the past both for the families involved and Salgado’s own boss.

There are multiple other threads too – the case involving the suspect that Salgado attacked has repercussions, Salgado has his own personal issues with his family, and his new young partner has some developments of her own to deal with. This highlights one of the strengths of Hill’s writing and that is the characterisation – all the characters, from the main protagonists through to the most minor appearances, were all well-defined and believable, and Salgado himself is a sympathetic and engaging lead.

For me the book missed a trick in not making more of Barcelona as the setting. I have only visited once, very briefly, but other than the names of streets the author didn’t really bring the city to life for me. Personally I find one of the joys of reading fiction set overseas is the chance to get a glimpse of other places and cultures, but this didn’t quite deliver.  I also thought (and I will say this quietly) that in some places the language felt a bit stilted and reminded me that it was a translation.

The book finishes on a real cliffhanger – so I will have to hope that I manage to find The Good Suicides in a bookshop…

You can see another review of this book at Crime Scraps Review.