Barcelona Shadows

Written by Marc Pastor

Review written by Sara Townsend

Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group.

Barcelona Shadows
Pushkin Press
RRP: £8.99
Released: October 9, 2014

Barcelona, 1911:  A sinister serial killer abducts the children of prostitutes, able to move freely about the city because no one really cares about these children of whores.  Only one man, Inspector Moises Corvo, steadfastly carries on his investigation, determined to get to the bottom of these horrific murders.

This is not a book for everyone, and admittedly when I first started reading it had me completely baffled.  Why all the head hopping?  Whose point of view is this book from?  The realisation that the first person character is actually Death, apparently personified in a way that is never actually explained, goes a long way to the narrative actually making sense.  After all, Death truly is an omniscient narrator, and knows what everyone else is thinking at any given time.  But this approach does make for a narrative style that takes some getting used to.

The city of Barcelona comes to life as a secondary character in this novel – beautiful, compulsive and hard to ignore, with an unpleasant and seedy underbelly that the author does not flinch from showing us. 

It’s a book that is full of surprises, not least of which is the fact that this brutal killer of children is a woman.  The identity of the killer is revealed fairly early on, but I learned afterwards that she did exist for real – Enriqueta Marti was a notorious killer of children in Barcelona in the early part of the twentieth century.

The author, a Spanish criminologist, knows this particular case in intimate detail.  This book is not so much about the plot, being based as it is on an infamous case known to everyone in Spain, but about the creative interpretation.

It’s not a book that will appeal to all.  Gothic horror fans, Spanish history fans, and even magical realism fans, will no doubt find much to like.  Fans of the straight crime novel, however, might be somewhat mystified.  But whether it’s your sort of novel or not, this book is rather like Barcelona itself – it gets under your skin and has you thinking about it long after you’ve left it.

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