Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE SADNESS OF THE SAMURAI by Victor del Árbol Kirkus Star


by Victor del Árbol

Pub Date: May 22nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9475-6
Publisher: Henry Holt

A deftly plotted thriller that combines narrative momentum with literary ambition.

A prize-winning novelist with police experience in his native Spain, Del Arbol deserves to expand his international readership with his first work to be translated into English. It’s basically the story of three families who discover how tightly their fates are intertwined. Though the plot crosses international borders and leaps back and forth across the decades, piling intrigue upon intrigue in the process, the author does a masterful job of keeping the story both clear and suspenseful. One narrative strand concerns a hospitalized lawyer in the early 1980s who is accused of helping a prisoner escape after she had successfully helped convict him of murder. The second begins 40 years earlier, when a beautiful aristocrat plots to murder her fascist husband, but finds herself betrayed by the man she loves. The third features the family of the man who tutors the younger son that the aristocrat leaves behind. Though the coincidences of suicides, dead mothers and wives, and the sins of the parents being visited upon their children, might strain credulity, they underscore the novel’s theme of “the absurd circular path of...destiny,” of how “the past is never forgotten; it’s never wiped clean” and, ultimately, of how “there are scars that never heal...but we have to keep going with what we are.” As the mystery unfolds, the lawyer discovers terrible truths about her father, which tie her in a deeper and darker way than she had realized to the police officer whose conviction had seemed like a blow to corruption, yet more likely was evidence of political corruption at higher levels. The reader will find this more compelling than confusing.

A literary page-turner.