The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill
translated from the Spanish by Laura McGloughlin
Inspector Héctor Salgado is a hot-blooded Argentine working in Barcelona. As the book opens, he has recently returned from enforced leave after he beat up a suspect in a Voodoo/paedophile trafficking ring.
Three short lines noted in black felt-tip pen on a yellow post-it note attached to a file of the same colour. So as not to see them, Superintendent Savall opened the file and looked over its contents. As if he didn’t already know them by heart. Statements. Affidavit. Medical reports. Police brutality. Photographs of that scumbag’s injuries. Photographs of that unfortunate Nigerian girls. Photographs of the flat in the Raval where they had the girls corralled. Even various newspaper cuttings, some – very few, thank God – deliberately narrating their own version of the facts, emphasizing concepts like injustice, racism and abuse of power. He slammed the file shut and looked at the clock on his desk. Ten past nine. Fifty minutes. He was moving his chair back to stretch out his legs when someone knocked on the door and opened it almost simultaneously.
‘Is he here,’ he asked.
Still suspended from active police work, Salgado’s boss asks him to unofficially look into the death of a teenager from one of Barcelona’s richest families. He quickly finds that there are many skeletons to be pulled from their closets, whilst the fallout from the Voodoo case continues.
I liked Salgado – he’s rarely called Héctor. Being an Argentine, he’s an outsider, divorced with a teenaged son and living on his own. He’s obviously a bit of a maverick, and he has vices – all good things for a fictional policeman!
I wasn’t so taken with the two policewomen working with him on the two cases though – I tended to get confused between them – they blended into each other. Salgado’s boss is unusally not a caricature either which, funnily, still makes him a little one-dimensional – but he’s only a bit player.
The book was terribly slow to get going – stifling itself in Barcelona’s heat, and then once on the move, there were twists and turns galore. A bit more pace in the early stages would have made it a more gripping read. Considering that the novel is set over just five days, the first couple seemed more than twenty-four hours long. One day I long to visit Barcelona, but its attractions barely featured in this novel which could have been set in any Mediterranean city.
I enjoyed the book enough to finish it, and would probably read another Salgado mystery, hoping for more development of character and setting in subsequent outings. (6.5/10)
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The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill, pub May 2012 by Doubleday, Hardback 320 pages.