A dark, nihilistic novel evoking the spirit of Dostoevsky.
Brothers Epi and Alex Dalmau visit a seedy Barcelona bar that serves as a magnet for whores and drugs. Epi comes prepared to knock in his friend Tanveer’s skull, which he accomplishes with some difficulty. Epi escapes the crime scene, but an innocent Pakistani man also runs away from the violence. Alex decides to do whatever he can to protect Epi, so he tells the police that the “Paki” did it. But why would Epi kill his friend? The answer becomes evident before long through a series of flashbacks. The author vividly writes of the Spanish underclass and its turbulent interactions with Arab immigrants. The language and many scenes are depressing, and the characters unsympathetic, perhaps with the exception of Epi’s girlfriend, Tiffany. No one’s bulb shines brightly in this book, and no one appears to have any chance of escaping the barrio or aspiring to anything better. The story is well-told, but there are no light moments to ease the tension. What if the police see through Alex’s lies? Will Epi get what he deserves? Assuming that readers care about the characters’ fates, they likely will be disappointed by the way the story ends.
The writing is strong, but this is not an easy book to like. If you aren’t averse to a dose or three of gloom, give it a shot.