Webster, Jason - 'Blood Med'
BLOOD MED by Jason Webster is the fourth in his series of books featuring Max Camara, unorthodox detective working for the Policia Nacional in Valencia. The city and country are on tenterhooks as King Juan Carlos is critically ill and it is uncertain whether he will recover from his heart operation. The economic downturn has bitten particularly savagely in Valencia. The city is on the verge of rioting, while far-right gangs roam the suburbs intimidating immigrants.
Camara, recently returned to the city after a period of sick leave, is unusually content at the start of this book. He is now living with his girlfriend, journalist Alicia and his grandfather, the charming octogenarian anarchist Hilario, but predictably this happy state of affairs is not going to last for long. As part of the public sector cuts, Max and his colleague and good friend Torres are set against each other by their unpleasant boss, the Rolex-wearing Maldonado. They are pressurised to race each other to resolve two new cases, as one of their jobs must go.
Camara's case involves the brutal killing of young American blogger Amy, married to a local pharmaceutical salesman. Amy is found dead in their city flat, brutally slain. Torres's case seems to have an open and shut nature: it involves a young man, Diego Oliva, who has fallen from the balcony of his flat and lies critically ill in Intensive Care. As he was depressed after being made redundant from local bank Caja Levante and unable to find a job, it seems like an obvious case of attempted suicide. Camara's new partner, Laura, with a background in investigating sex crimes and domestic violence is convinced that Amy was killed by her husband, but Camara isn't so sure. Unsurprisingly to seasoned crime readers, the two cases prove to be connected. Camara meets official opposition to his investigation, and has to deal with considerable suffering in his personal life, as he travels through the anarchist underground and institutional corruption to solve his cases.
I found this a very enjoyable character-driven and location-driven police procedural, which is easily read without prior knowledge of this series. Camara is an engaging, slightly offbeat police hero, with his grandfather helping as an entree into anarchist circles which would not normally be accessible to a state official. What sets this novel head and shoulders above much of the pack is the keen historian's eye that Webster casts over the current social and economic climate of Valencia. I was particularly affected by Webster's depiction of how austerity cuts have clearly bitten very hard, impacting on the availability of basic medication and emergency treatment in the Valencia area. I am now very keen to read the earlier books in this series.
Read another review of BLOOD MED.
Laura Root, England