The murder of a Spanish matriarch who was loathed by Falangists, Communists, her house servants and her own family.
Called home to his family’s holdings in Granada from his posting at the Guardia Civil in Potes, Lt. Carlos Tejada (The Watcher in the Pine, 2005, etc.) is reluctant to reintroduce his wife Elena to his parents, brother and cousins. He knows they’ll condescend to her for her leftist sympathies. Tejada’s been summoned by his father to investigate the murder of his cranky, perhaps crazy, old great-aunt Rosalia, who was always carrying on about the Reds conspiring to kill her. Her latest will has disappeared, there are traces of cyanide in her wine and the suspects include children she disinherited, Tejada’s father, the cook, the maid, her lawyer’s porter and the sugar refiner forced to sell out to her cheaply and flee the country when he was denounced to the Guardia. Working with the local Guardia’s Sergeant Rivas, Tejada niggles away at motive and opportunity while Elena tries to reconnect with a former student from her teaching days in Madrid. Despite interrogation-by-torture, Tejada finds confessions hard to come by. It’s only when he focuses on the fury of children orphaned by the Civil War that he can confront his great-aunt’s killer in a harrowing dénouement.
An old-fashioned whodunit gussied up with political overtones. But anyone who’s ever suffered a mother-in-law will sympathize with Elena.