Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of the Poke Rafferty Bangkok Thrillers and the Junior Bender Mysteries. His next Poke Rafferty book, The Fear Artist, will come out in July.
Gitana, Dominic Martell
Gitana is the third and final book in an unhappily short series (the others are Lying Crying Dying and The Republic of Night) by Dominic Martell. The hero, Pasqual Rose, lives a life on the margins in Barcelona, working at a small bar in a dicey neighborhood. This isn't the Barcelona of Gaudi or even Woody Allen, it's a much tougher town, populated by Gypsies, skinheads, and the occasional slumming tourist, a maze of ancient alleyways, dark enough to cloak the worst of misdeeds.
Pascual is shielding an enormous secret: a more than a decade ago, as a young, impressionable man, he fell in with the Palestinian cause and committed acts of terror in its name before he recoiled from what he'd become and fled into hiding. He's ridden with guilt and hopelessly seeking some kind of absolution—but he's still got the reflexes and instincts developed by years spent looking over his shoulder. When an American man comes into the bar and calls him by name, alarms go off in Pascual's head; and when the American is murdered shortly afterward, Pascual knows that someone or something is sniffing him out.
And then there's Sara, who sings in the bar where Pasqual works, and whom he's fallen in love with, and there's Serrano, the cop who knows part of Pasqual's story, and there's Campos, the journalist who may know nearly all of it and wants to write a book. And back behind all of it, cranking on clockwork Pascual can only guess at, is someone who wants him dead and who doesn't care about collateral damage. And there's also the secret in Sara's past, that Pascual can't even guess at.
Gitana is beautifully plotted and written. Martell obviously knows Barcelona inside out, because I've rarely read a book with a stronger and more persuasive sense of place. The triumph of the book for me, though, is characterization—there isn't a character in the book, who doesn't leap off the page, who doesn't seem to possess a genuine subconscious. I read the book for the skill with which it's written and the spell of the setting, but I loved it because of the people in its pages, Dominic Martell, who also writes crackerjack Chicago thrillers as Sam Reaves, is (I think) a criminally underrated writer, and I'm delighted to see the Pascual trilogy gradually becoming available in ebook form. The first one, Lying Crying Dying is available now here on Amazon.
Ed Gorman is the author of the new Dev Conrad novel, BLINDSIDE.
Forgotten Books: BLACKMAILER by George Axelrod
Joe Barone, Cast a Blue Shadow, P.L. Gaus
George Kelley, The Chalice of Death, Robert Silverberg
Rob Kitchin, Incompetence, Rob Grant
Evan Lewis, A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs
Richard Robinson, Playgrounds of the Mind, Larry Niven
Ron Scheer, The Fate of a Fool, Emma Ghent Curtis
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, The Clock Strikes Thirteen, Herbert Brean
Zybahn, The Erasers, Alain Robbe-Grillet