This novel is a tale of two beautiful women, one in her 20s the other almost twice that age—the young woman was murdered and the other accused of the crime. Onto the scene comes the detective team of sergeant Vila and guardia Chomoro. These undercover cops have come from Spanish Civil Guard headquarters in Madrid to a small backwater village on the isle of Majorca to assist the local police, who are baffled by the crime.
When multi-talented Spanish writer Lorenzo Silva created the detective team of sergeant Ruben Bevilacqua and trooper Virginia Chomorro, Silva was known primarily as a writer of juvenile fiction. He introduced the pair in this novel, El Lejano País de los Estanques (The Faraway Land of Lakes). The title refers to a small park in Vienna where statue of Sigmund Freud sits near a pond where water lilies float. Vienna is also the home of the young victim in this homicide thriller.
Colleagues know Sergeant Bevilacqua as Vila because the Spanish cannot pronounce his Italian name. The sergeant is not Italian, but a native of Spain, who was a psychologist before he joined the Spanish Civil Guard, which is the national police force of Spain. The Civil Guard are a military organization with the strange looking dress uniform hats and the deadly serious job of fighting terrorists, smugglers and other criminals. Vila and his assistant Chomorro are in the homicide branch and in the introductory tale they were sent to the island of Majorca to solve this grisly and bizarre murder—a beautiful young Swiss was shot dead and found hanging from the rafter in the older woman’s apartment. The other woman was missing and unaccounted for. It is assumed by the locals that she is the murderer, but is she?
The team goes undercover to search the beaches, taverns and nightclubs of this Mediterranean tourist Mecca and soon is enmeshed in the sordid after-hours nightlife where the murdered woman had an infamous reputation as a sexual predator. The reader follows the twists and turns of the plot as narrated by sergeant Vila, but the solution evades him. It appears that innocent vacationers may go down for the crime, but a chance encounter at the defendants judicial hearing sets the team on a new course toward solving the crime.
In the end Vila and Chomoro return to Madrid ready for their next fictional assignment. This novel has much to offer the detective fiction reader: the action moves rapidly, the scene is exotic and the characters are well drawn.
The author finds time to give the reader the back-story of both Vila and Chomorro, preparing the reader to anticipate future adventures. He also finds time to quote the Viennese psychologist Sigmund Freud and Virginia Woolf. Contributes to the title of the novel with this quote is from her experimental novel, The Waves:
The tiger leapt, and the swallow dipped her wings in dark pools on the other side of the world, …
Virginia Wolf, The Waves, 1931
You have to like an author of detective novels who uses esoteric literary references. This novel is a great introduction to the detective team, and the series of novels that followed has achieved well deserved success in Spain. The series has been translated to French and Danish. Unfortunately the novels are not yet available in English translation.
Day 21: El Lejano País de los Estanques (Lorenzo Silva) (1998).