Death on a Galician Shore, original title A praia dos afogados (Galician), La playa de los ahogados (Spanish-Castilian), is Domingo Villar’s second novel featuring police inspector Leo Caldas and his assistant Rafael Estévez. For more information about this rather unusual relationship you can check Petrona’s review of Water-Blue Eyes, Villar’s debut novel here.
The plot opens when the corpse of a drowned man brought by the tide is found floating one Monday morning in a beach near Paxon’s port, a small fishermen village south of Vigo. His name was Justo Castelo, a local fisherman. He was seen alive for the last time on his boat early Sunday morning. The boat is still missing. His hands are tied by the wrist. At first sight it looks like a suicide case. Inspector Leo Caldas and his sidekick Rafael Estévez are send to investigate but soon other details will come to light. A much more complex investigation will lead them into an unusual direction the investigation of a decade ago shipwreck whose details do not seem to be entirely clear and around which have evolved the strangest legends. Leo Caldas, under the sceptical eyes of his assistant, will have to deal with ghosts of the past that are back to claim justice.
Besides the investigation of this case we will also discover more details about Leo Caldas private life and his complex relationship with his father. We will be introduced to his uncle Alberto, his father’s only brother, who is seriously ill and hospitalised. And we will hear about Alba, a woman that has had a past with Leo Caldas. Maybe Death on a Galician Shore it is not as funny as Water-Blue Eyes, although Rafael Estévez still doesn’t understand Galician’s singularities but this also confirms that Villar has matured as a writer.
In what it seems a typical note in his series, Domingo Villar pays homage to a crime fiction book. This time is the turn of Fred Vargas’ Have Mercy on Us All. Music plays also an important role in Villar’s books here with continuous references to Solveig’s Song. Finally our mouth will be watering with his descriptions of local delicatessen, ‘percebes’ in particular.
Death on a Galician Shore is a much better structured and more solid story than his first instalment in the series. It has all the necessary ingredients to be an appealing book: a great sense of place, attractive characters and a thrilling argument. On top of that it is very well written. Domingo Villar has fully ratified the expectations created with his debut novel, he is no longer a promising writer, but he is confirmed as an excellent one. I can only but praise Death on a Galician Shore, one of the best books that I have read in Spanish so far this year and I very much enjoyed reading it. It is no wonder why it has received this year the following awards: Premio Brigada 21, Premio Losada Diéguez, Libro del Año por la Federación de Libreros de Galicia, Finalista del Premio Libro del Año del Gremio de Libreros de Madrid, ‘Autor del año 2009’ by Fervenzas literarias and Finalista del premio Novelpol.
Siruela (In Spanish)