A review on "La reina sin espejo"


WHILE ALICE crossed through the looking glass and safely lived out her psychodelic adventures, the eponymous reality TV queen of Lorenzo Silva's thriller lived out her adventures without the benefit of a magic mirror and is already dead on page 1.

The criminal investigators assigned to this case are Ruben Bevilaqua ("just call me Vila") and Virginia Chamorro, both of whom work for the revamped Spanish Guardia Civil that, with the exception of the three-cornered hat still worn by officers assigned to protect official buildings, otherwise operates much like a U.S. federal law-enforcement agency--light years removed from the gypsy harassers in Lorca's foreboding Romance de la Guardia Civil Espanola (1928).

This is not the duo's first crime case. Previously, they have been detailed to Mallorca, Costa del Sol, the Canary Islands, and, now, Barcelona (see WLT 73:2, p. 305; 76:1, p. 220; and 77:2, p. 146). In each story, Silva uses crime as the modus operandi for diagnosing a particular segment of present-day Spain. In this story, loosely structured on Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871), Neus Barutell, a female version of Geraldo Rivera, has been murdered by someone who did not like her over-the-top investigative reporting that jeopardized one of Barcelona's most lucrative industries, the sexploitation of underage girls from the former Soviet bloc.

Along with the thrills that Vila and Chamorro provide with their hunting down of a corrupt cop and brutal pornographers who set up elaborate film studios in Barcelona warehouses, the author also lets us get up close to the two investigators who reveal their most intimate feelings, especially their fears and inadequacies relating to Vila's divorce and Chamorro's delayed maternity. In addition to a more mellowed pair, what's new here is their use of technology and innovative schemes. Computer files, text messaging, and the ubiquitous cell phone that facilitate the prostitution of the eastern girls lead eventually to the demise of their masters.

Stylistically, the author allows Chamorro and Vila, who are narrating the story through flashback, to express themselves in terms that reflect their university studies in astronomy (Chamorro) and psychology (Vila), which sets the tone of this novel apart from fatuous-sounding English murder mysteries and the American hard-boiled detective stories. Nevertheless, Silva's protagonists are young and inject their otherwise urbane discourse with the colorful and uninhibited idiom of Spain's new generation.

Up until now, Lorenzo Silva's crime writing has confronted contemporary societal issues in Spain like the destruction of the environment by greedy and corrupt developers and local politicians, the lack of security at nuclear installations, police officials on the take, and human trafficking. Perhaps at some point in the near future he will take on that other burning issue in Spain that has been a constant since the 1960s: the activities of the Basque Homeland Party (ETA).


David Ross Gerling

Sam Houston State University

World Literature Today, spring 2007


Cedido a cualquiera que lo use sin ßnimo de lucro
Copyright, Lorenzo Silva 2000-2008