An Olympic Death by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán

Original title El laberinto griego by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. Planeta 1991. 190 pages. ISBN: 84-320-6926-4.

According to the information provided by Editorial Planeta, An Olympic Death is the 16th instalment in Pepe Carvalho series by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. The Spanish edition was originally published in 1991 under the title El laberinto griego (The Greek Labyrinth). The English language version translated by Ed Emery was first published in 2000 in the US by Serpent’s Tail, if my information is correct. It’s often confused with another title Sabotaje olímpico, Planeta, 1993(Carvalho Mysteries #17) which, to my knowledge, is not available in English.

The action takes place in Barcelona, while the city prepares to host the Olympic Games we find private eye Pepe Carvalho working on two different cases. The first one refers to a seventeen-year-old girl. She was arrested in a drug raid. The police believe she is just a small-scale consumer, however her father wants to discover the truth and hires Carvalho to follow her. The second case involves a missing man, Alekos a young Greek, a model and a painter. The lover of Mademoiselle Claire Delmas, a beautiful woman. Claire Delmas and her friend Monsieur George Lebrun are following his track since he left her apartment in Paris. Alekos, the man of her life, is supposed to be now in Barcelona.

An Olympic Deathfollows Montalban’s classic formula, the action is always accompanied by large meals, recipes, drinks and cigars. In fact, I have counted up to three meals in just one night, without taking into account the amount of alcohol that our “hero” can drink in one day. Both plots are too simple and I have found Pepe Carvalho overly nostalgic, as if he has just become aware of the irreversibility of time. Besides all the characters are stereotyped and grotesque in excess for my taste. On the positive side it can be noted that it’s well written and provides a picture of a Barcelona that no longer exists. I can only recommend this book to staunch followers of Vázquez Montalbán.

El laberinto griego (The Greek Labyrinth) was adapted into a film in 1993, directed by Rafael Alcázar and starring Penélope Cruz, Omero Antonutti, Aitana Sánchez-Gijon, Eusebio Poncela and Carlos Lucena.