A review on "El alquimista impaciente"



THE PROTAGONISTS OF El alquimista impaciente are criminal investigator Rubén Bevilacqua and his assistant, Virginia Chamorro, who represent the new look of the Spanish Guardia Civil that has attracted a growing number of young professionals to its ranks for the first time in its history. Bevilacqua (a.k.a. "Vila") and Chamorro are also the protagonists of El lejano país de los estanques (1998; see WLT 73:2, p. 305), but Silva chooses not to encumber the reader with reference to their previous sleuthing.

The opening scene of El alquimista impaciente combines classic noir and contemporary cinematic shock: a nude bodylying face down on a motel bed, wrists bound to the bedposts, and an enormous red-rubber dildo protruding from the anus. Soon we learn that the body is that of Trinidad Soler, a middle-aged family man who worked as a radiation-safety specialist at a nuclear power plant northeast of Madrid. According to the desk clerk, the victim checked in the night before, accompanied by a stunning, tall blond woman in her early twenties with an East European accent. The body was discovered by an understandably upset and perplexed femme de chambre.

The autopsy that identifies the cause of death as a heart attack partially confirms the investigators’ theory that sexual ecstasy contributed to Sr. Soler’s demise, but it also detects high levels of cocaine, bromazepam, and alcohol in the blood.

Some time later, the finding of the body of a twenty-one-year-old Belorussian woman, shot execution style, and whose description matches that of the woman seen with Trinidad Soler the night of his demise, moves the investigators from speculation to praxis.

At this point in the story Vila and Chamorro evolve into three-dimensional characters, and I find myself hoping they will tarry in solving the crime so that I might enjoy their companionship for as long as possible. Although both are skilled professionals, they come across first and foremost as real people with the same insecurities and foibles as anyone else. Also, because of their plucky authenticity, they function well as observers of the degenerate side of Madrid society.

In their quest for killers, Silva places before us the sterile lives of the nouveaux riches in the fashionable foothills north of Madrid, provincial politicians on the take, arrogant, tax-cheating land developers, paranoid public-relations directors of nuclear facilities, and East European girls caught up in the lucrative sex industry in and around Madrid.

In truth, it is difficult to know where detective work stops and social criticism begins, or if in Silva’s latest incursion into noir both are gratifyingly part and parcel of this exhilarating, eye-opening journey into the side alleys of contemporary Madrid.

David Ross Gerling

Sam Houston State University

World Literature Today, winter 2002


Cedido a cualquiera que lo use sin ánimo de lucro
Copyright, Lorenzo Silva 2000-2005