MALA VIDA by Marc Fernandez


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A dogged investigative journalist hunts a killer with a deeply personal agenda in contemporary Spain.

Journalist and crime novelist Fernandez presents a dramatic crime story in his first book to be translated into English. Set in present-day Spain, the novel grapples with the long shadow of Franco and his government’s many, many trespasses against its people. At its heart is a ruthless killer executing a series of seemingly unconnected victims that include a nun, a banker, and other professionals who seem to have no ties to the killer’s political agenda. We experience Fernandez’s crisp crime story through the eyes of Diego Martin, whose investigative radio show exposes the corrupt and the criminals in society. Martin name-checks James Ellroy, and this sprawling yet taut crime novel recalls Ellroy’s percussive style. Diego has gotten involved with Isabel Ferrer, an attorney who has launched a campaign to expose a secret plot under Franco’s dictatorship to steal babies from their mothers. Fernandez’s prose is tight, and his descriptions of life under a corrupt government might well reflect our own current fractures in society. “Overload,” he writes. “Just too much. Too many strange occurrences. Too many deaths. Too many special editions. Too many bombs exploding at once. Too many coincidences. Too many unanswered questions.” Diego is assisted by two able comrades in David Ponce, a sitting judge navigating the country’s political minefields, and Ana Durán, a transgender private eye. The threats to them are palpable and familiar. “Threats like these are in their line of work,” Fernandez writes. “They have seen plenty of others. These attacks tell them one thing, though: they are making some people uncomfortable. Who? People in power, most likely, and they are starting to come out from the shadows.” Another character sums up the corruption they expose: “People knew right up to the highest echelons of power, and no one said a thing.”

A diabolically forceful crime novel that takes all the noir tropes and uses them in foreign territory to great effect.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-62872-743-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2018


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