Jason Webster

A Death in Valencia – Jason Webster

Title – A Death in Valencia

Author – Jason Webster

Published – 7 June 2012

Genre – Crime fiction

When I won my copy of Or the Bull Kills You earlier in the year I was lucky enough to also receive a sneaky copy of this second title in the Max Cámara series.

Set something over a year after Or the Bull Kills You, Chief Inspector Max Cámara is called to a packed beach where there is a stand-off between the Guardia Civil and the Policias Nacionales – neither wanting to make the first move and take responsibility for a body floating at the shoreline.  Cámara seizes control, and takes responsibility, only to find that the body is the subject of his current investigation – the disappearance of a well-respected paella chef.

As with his previous novel, Webster provides the reader with background on some of the atmosphere, local traditions and colour of Valencia – both the good and the bad. As well as finding out more about paella, and the colourful fishing quarter where the ill-fated chef lived and worked, we also find out more about the corruption amongst the local politicians. Add to this a missing abortionist and the visit of the Pope – Webster again tackling moral issues, challenging the reader and his detective.

The story is well-plotted, and as events unfold we see more of Cámara’s character. He’s still smoking dope and drinking, but there’s less detail here than in the earlier book – enough if you didn’t read the first one, not too much if you did. His personal life isn’t any more organised – in fact he has the rug pulled from under his feet! The relationships between Cámara and some of his colleagues are also explored in a bit more depth.

Needless to say Cámara gets himself into a few scrapes during the story and there’s an exciting climax as all the threads come together. Perhaps, as before, the contrast between the slower-paced early part of the book and the climax is a bit too marked for me, but that’s just a personal quibble.

All-in-all this is another thoroughly enjoyable read – and a little bit of Spanish sunshine for our English summer.

You can see another review over at Gav Reads.

1star1star1star1star

Or The Bull Kills You – Jason Webster

Title – Or The Bull Kills You

Author – Jason Webster

Published – 2011

Genre – Crime fiction

I was lucky to win a copy of this book over at the It’s a Crime! blog, which was particularly lucky as I’m not sure I would have bought a book that centres around bullfighting. This is the author’s first crime fiction book, and I think it’s an excellent start.

When Chief Inspector Max Cámara reluctantly replaces his boss as the president of the corrida he is drawn into the investigation of a star matador’s death. The investigation gets off to a slow start – the mutilated body provides very little evidence and there seems to be a limited cast of suspects, but then another body is found, murdered in a similar manner.

All of the action takes place against the backdrop of the annual Fallas – a noisy and wild 5-day festival which takes over the city of Valencia, also coinciding with the election of the Mayor. Lightening the mood a little are the efforts of Cámara and his colleagues to settle into the new Jefatura building (police headquarters), originally designed as a new art museum the architecture doesn’t exactly lend itself to a more mundane purpose.

I think Cámara makes a great central character, and we get some insights to his personal life – there are problems with his long-time girlfriend and we’re also introduced to his unconventional grandfather. In fact all the characters seem well written and credible.

Pretty much all I know about Spain comes from a weekend in Barcelona, so some of the longer explanations and background were necessary.  Webster brought the city to life and I’m tempted to say that Valencia may have to go on my list of places to visit, although probably not during Fallas.

If I have a complaint about the book it’s around the action at the climax of the story and the final unravelling of who did what to whom – I couldn’t really keep up & felt I needed some post-its to try to keep track!

I know that many people have found the more graphic scenes of bullfighting unpleasant and unnecessary, but I thought that Webster found the right balance to illustrate the sport without dwelling too much on what is inevitably disturbing for a lot of people. In the course of the story Cámara himself goes from hating the “sport” to developing a greater understanding of the traditions and culture surrounding bullfighting, giving him a greater appreciation of it. I’m not sure I went on quite the same journey, but I certainly understood more that I did at the outset.

I enjoyed Webster’s style of writing and I’m looking forward to reading Cámara’s next outing in “A Death in Valencia”.

You can see a different view of this title over at Reactions to Reading.

Score – 4/5