Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Book Review: The Hidden Assasins by Robert Wilson

Continental, urbane, and complex are a few words that describe Robert Wilson's The Hidden Assassins, the third in his series of mysteries featuring Inspector Jefe Javier Falcón of Seville, Spain. While I found myself lost at times and mistakenly thought I had the plot figured out more than once, I'm glad I stuck with this fascinating examination of both the human psyche and society at large.

At the opening, Inspector Jefe Falcón finds himself called to the murder scene of a disfigured corpse, but he is soon distracted by a bomb that destroys an apartment building in a residential section of Seville. It turns out that the building housed a mosque in the basement, and everyone's thoughts quickly turn to terrorism. While Falcón and his homicide team work on the blast site as a crime scene, the Spanish intelligence agencies move in and both supply and withhold information, something Falcón can barely tolerate. It quickly becomes clear to Falcón (and the reader) that a terror cell has not blown themselves up by mistake, and there are other forces at play. The intelligence officers admonish everyone to keep an open mind, but only Falcón follows through, bothered as he is by details that don't fit. With his team, he is able to pursue the leads and fit the pieces together in a way nobody else can.

Obviously, Falcón is a bright guy. He also has a complicated past. We are treated to several subplots regarding his history that have little to do with the mystery at hand but are interesting in and of themselves. We follow his ex-wife and her second husband, who is a colleague of Falcón's. We also accompany his ex-girlfriend on her personal journey with a blind therapist who helped Falcón in an earlier story. His sister's partner and a friend from Morocco also play important parts in the tale.

Wilson describes situations in great detail and lays out the plot of his novel with infinite care, but I lost track of the characters at first. I chalk this up in part to my having to put down the book too often and in part to my having trouble with the unfamiliar Spanish names. I also believe I would have fared better had I read the earlier books in the series (The Vanished Hands and The Blind Man of Seville). Then the threads from Falcón's past would have seemed more integral to the narrative to me.

Be that as it may, I did become engrossed in the story. I appreciated Wilson's crisp writing and the astute observations he had to offer on life in Spain, Europe as a whole, and the nature of terrorism. The main protagonist is someone to admire; as one of the other characters puts its, Falcón is an honorable man. He is also a regular-guy-hero, a hard-working detective who can really crack a case.

If you like your crime fiction with complicated plot lines and an international flavor, then you should give the Inspector Falcón series a try, starting at the beginning. You will be rewarded for your attention.

Cross-posted to Blogcritics.

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