Hill, Antonio - 'The Good Suicides' (translated by Laura McGoughlin)
THE GOOD SUICIDES is the much anticipated follow up novel to the acclaimed crime novel THE SUMMER OF DEAD TOYS by Spanish author and translator Antonio Hill. This book is also set in Barcelona and features melancholic Argentinian detective, Hector Salgado, and his subordinate, the gifted sergeant Leire Castro. This book is set several months after the end of THE SUMMER OF DEAD TOYS, with Hector still struggling to come to terms with the disappearance of a loved one. Hector has been forbidden to continue investigating in his official capacity, but Leire Castro, heavily pregnant and bored on maternity leave, takes it upon herself to obtain the file and investigate herself. Hector misses the assistance of Leire at work, finding her replacement, the slightly naive young man Roger Fort, rather irritating at times.
Hector is investigating a spate of apparent suicides at successful family run cosmetics firm Alemany cosmetics. He is called to the scene after lonely secretary Sara Mahler kills herself by throwing herself under a train at a metro station just before the Reyes (Epiphany) festival. An efficient but unpopular young woman, at first it seems as if the loneliness of the festive season had overwhelmed Sara. But Hector's suspicions that her death may not be as straightforward as it seems are aroused when he discovers that a gruesome photo of dead dogs captioned "Never Forget" was sent to Sara's mobile phone just before her death.
He becomes even more concerned that something may be very wrong at Alemany, when he learns that another employee, Gaspar Rodenas, killed himself and his family the previous summer. Sara and Gaspar had attended a firm team-building weekend earlier that summer, and the photo of the dead dogs was taken by an unknown person of an incident that happened at the team-building weekend. Hector has a hunch that some other event from the weekend must be behind the recent deaths, but meets considerable resistance from Sylvia and the other Alemany employees, in obtaining more information. Hector is determined to break their wall of silence about the lethal secret they are taking so much trouble to conceal. The reader can see that Hector is right, as those who attended the team-building weekend have been receiving ominous blackmailing e-mails, and each is convinced that it must be another of the remaining group of six that is sending the e-mails.
THE GOOD SUICIDES is an excellent follow up to Antonio Hill's first book in the series, combining good old-fashioned story telling with an acute eye on the social and political circumstances of contemporary Spain. He has the finger very much on the pulse of recent events, looking at the fate of the middle classes during the economic downturn, and recent revelations re the controversial role of some church officials in adoption cases. Hector and Leire remain engaging characters, with Hector having a sufficiently strong moral compass to make the reader sympathise with him despite his previous violent tendencies. Hill's depiction of Leire's struggles to come to terms with her likely impending single motherhood, and development of her maternal instincts is well done, without being overly sentimental. This is another hugely enjoyable novel by Hill, and I look forward to the next instalment - the end of THE GOOD SUICIDES leaves a tantalising cliffhanger as to the resolution to the mystery in Hector's personal life.
Laura Root, England