When a teenage boy in Barcelona falls from a window to his death, whether he slipped or was pushed is but one of the gripping questions facing Inspector Héctor Salgado in this penetrating, atmospheric mystery.
Set during a sweltering summer, Spanish writer Hill's first novel centers on three friends: Marc, the victim, who hadn't been his likable self since returning from school in Dublin; Aleix, a two-faced schemer who is in trouble with drug dealers; and the impressionable Gina, who was smitten with Marc. Héctor, an Argentinian who recently moved to Barcelona, is looking into the case unofficially after being forced to take an extended vacation: He beat up a doctor involved in a trafficking scheme that left a young girl dead. Héctor's investigation uncovers unsettling truths about Marc's extended family while drawing him to the boy's mother, who abandoned him when he was a baby but, having recently re-connected with him, wants the cause of his death determined. Computers, flash drives, blogs and cellphones play prominent roles in the book, but like so many recent Spanish-language books and films, it deftly taps into the timeless fears of childhood and adolescence. While the plot is first-rate, with plausible twists and revelations, the book transcends the mystery genre with its focus on the dark secrets families keep. Marc was largely cared for by his indifferent father's brother, a priest. Héctor himself is a divorced dad with a ton of regrets. In the end, the novel indulges in convention with its Perry Mason–like confession/summing-up. But until then, it is thoroughly compelling, with strong female characters and Barcelona playing a major role.
Ending with a teaser for the next novel featuring Inspector Salgado, this book gets the series off to a great start.