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by Antonio Hill

Pub Date: June 18th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7704-3587-5
Publisher: Crown

A teenage boy in Barcelona falls out a window to his death; whether he slipped or was pushed is only 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 dead boy, who hadn't been his likable self since returning from college in Dublin; Aleix,//CHECK SPELLING/ a two-faced schemer who's in trouble with drug dealers; and the impressionable Gina, who was smitten with Marc. Héctor, an Argentinian living in Barcelona, is looking into the case unofficially after having been forced to take an extended vacation for beating 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 her son when he was a baby but, having recently re-connected, wants the cause of his death determined. Computers, flash drives, blogs and cellphones play prominent roles here but, like so much recent Spanish-language art, the book deftly taps into the timeless fears of childhood and adolescence. The plot is first-rate, with plausible twists and revelations, and the book rises to another level 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.