A down-and-out debt collector abruptly finds himself at the center of a murder investigation.
Spanish lawyer Pablo Esteban’s life is falling apart, as the business he works for is near bankruptcy and his longtime girlfriend has recently left him for another man. Unexpectedly, he runs into his former best friend, Trendy, on the metro, and the two make plans to meet later to reminisce about their teenage years and fill each other in on the decade-plus since they've last seen each other. Later that night, Trendy is stabbed to death, and police investigator Antonio Roche believes that as one of the last people to see him alive, Pablo is the key to solving the murder. Set in 1998, the story begins slowly but becomes increasingly captivating as Pablo is reunited with his childhood friends at Trendy's funeral and later returns to the barrio of his youth. In between time spent assisting Roche with interviews, Pablo pursues meetings with other inhabitants of Madrid who owe his employer long-standing debts, some of whom also have startling connections to Pablo's old life. Jiménez Barca’s novel won the Silverio Cañada Prize in 2006 for best debut crime novel in Spanish, and his prose, translated by Rowdon, deftly conveys a world-weary tone, especially as Pablo reflects on his teenage years and on Nora, the girl he and Trendy both loved. Investigator Roche deftly interrogates Pablo's and Trendy’s former acquaintances, always keeping one eye on how the past is shaping the present, and the case takes on new urgency as Pablo's own life is threatened.
As a crime novel, this work doesn’t consistently sustain the level of suspense needed for a page-turner, but its reflective moments offer eloquence, even in the well-trodden territory of teenage love triangles and coming-of-age tales.