A review on "La niebla y la doncella"



THE MYSTERIOUSLY BEAUTIFUL ISLAND of La Gomera in the Canary archipelago serves as the setting for La niebla y la doncella, a novela negra whose title hints at the complicity between fog and a young woman. As to why the author chose for his crime scene La Gomera—among the seven otherworldly islands that comprise the archipelago—one can only surmise, but consciously or unconsciously, it was a good choice. Apart from its historical significance (it was the stopping-off point for Columbus and his ships on their way to the West Indies), its radically contrastive landscape—now Saharan, now subtropical —parallels aptly the instability of some of the characters in the story, whose bipolar lives oscillate between good and evil. Succinctly, someone has murdered a twentytwo-year-old German-Spanish pleasure-seeker who had an unhealthy obsession for a fifteen- year-old girl who happens to be the daughter of the island’s governor who, in turn, hated the victim. However, the "simple art of murder," as Raymond Chandler would say, is never quite so simple. The case has gone cold, and the local police have asked for help from the federal authorities: namely, the Guardia Civil Española, that has evolved dramatically for the better since the days of García Lorca and his unfortunate gypsy, Antoñito El Camborio. In response, the commandant sends from headquarters in Madrid special agents Rubén Bevilacqua, or Vila for short, and Virginia Chamorro, who will lead a team of criminal investigators on the island. What happens when they arrive is as bizarre as the island itself and builds up to an explosive and scandalous climax. Gratifyingly, Lorenzo Silva (see WLT 76:2, p. 92) has chosen to bring back inspectors Vila and Chamorro, who were the protagonists of his other two crime novels: El lejano país de los estanques (1988; see WLT 73:2, p. 305), whose location was the Balearic island of Mallorca, and El alquimista impaciente (2000; see WLT 76:1, p. 220), set in Madrid and the Costa del Sol, winner of the covetedNadal Prize in 2000. The homonymous film version of this latter book won first prize for best adapted screenplay (Patricia Ferreira) at the film festival organized by the Círculo de Escritores Cinematográficos on January 27, 2003, in Madrid. Vila and his assistant, agent Chamorro, excel at their profession while also living a life of the mind. They discuss Schopenhauer, Freud, Lacan, and the golden age of American cinema, the death penalty, and the criminal psyche. Still, what draws readers to them is neither their professionalism nor their ability to expound but, rather, the presence of both these characteristics along with flaws that render them all the more human and endearing. Accordingly, Vila has much more in common, say, with Frank Serpico, the finest of New York’s finest, than with the aloof and asexual sleuths of English enigma or murder mysteries. Understandably, while the author does not develop his other characters with the same profundity, he nevertheless reveals them as truly unique individuals: the victim’s mildlyschizoid German mother, her German boyfriend who teaches scuba diving, an assortment of island lowlifes who speak with authentic Canary Island dialects, a fifteenyear-old nymphet named Desirée with the nostalgic seductiveness of Nabokov’s Lolita, and a bisexual female criminal investigator who frequents nudist beaches and who has a certain je ne sais quoi that drives Vila crazy with lust. If you read this novel, you will probably want to read the other two, and once you have read all three, you will look forward to Silva’s next incursion into noir.


David Ross Gerling

Sam Houston State University

World Literature Today, summer 2003


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