Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Review of Death of a Nationalist by Rachel Pawel (Soho Press, 2003)
The strengths of Death of a Nationalist are the atmosphere and sense of place. Pawel captures the general paranoia and landscape of Madrid at the end of a civil war, where neighbours are not sure who they can trust and sections of the population are being hunted and arrested, people are starving and either hardened or broken, and the buildings and streets are damaged from bullets and bombs. Sergeant Carlos Tejada is a complex lead character, a learned and cultured man but also a battle hardened veteran. He is capable of torturing prisoners and killing in cold blood, and is generally standoffish, but can also be empathetic and romantic. It’s an interesting mix, creating an anti-hero that is at the limits of reader sympathy. The other characters are reasonably well penned, but there is little in the way of back story with regards to the Llorente family with whom Tejada finds himself tangling. Moreover, the plot is a little convoluted and thin at times, and the ending is mostly told through an epilogue. Nevertheless, this first book in the series shows promise given its historical setting and lead character and I’d be interested to give the second a read.