Set in the Spanish Basque country, Redondo’s novel explores a string of horrific murders and the rumors that swirl around them.
When the body of a young girl, Ainhoa Elizasu, is found murdered, Inspector Amaia Salazar is put on the case. The girl was discovered with her clothes cut open, pubic hair shaved, and a small, sweet cake placed upon her pubic mound. A second victim, much like the first except that an animal has eaten both the cake and the victim’s pubic area, is found, and Amaia is assigned to lead both investigations, which take place in the area where she grew up. Returning home, she faces her two sisters: Flora, the oldest, who runs the family bakery, and Rosaura, who left the bakery to get away from her controlling eldest sister. When a third girl is found dead, old wounds open, and Amaia—who grew up with an abusive mother—must manage to overcome local superstitions involving a basajuan, also known as the protector of the forest, a mythical creature some feel may be involved in the slayings. Amaia must also deal with her own trepidation at returning home. The most redeeming part of Redondo’s work is that it gives readers a rare glimpse into Basque culture and geography. But the book brims with long, dull soliloquies, endless examinations of Amaia's personal family drama, and distasteful descriptions of the murders. At one point, Amaia allows one of her sisters to taste a crumb of the cake found on one victim’s pubic area, and much of the police-procedural end of the investigation is weak: when things become very personal, for instance, Amaia continues to head the investigation, despite an obvious conflict of interest.
Redondo introduces way too many named characters, many of whom are ultimately irrelevant; readers will need to keep a list to figure out who’s who in this muddled thriller.