The cover promises a “Perfect blend of Agatha Christie and Pedro Almodóvar.”
I couldn’t resist!
The opening is wonderful.
“His moustache was thicker than ever, so stiff a fly could have strolled out to the end, like a prisoner walking the plank on a pirate ship. Except that flies can’t survive in a cold room and thirty below zero, and neither could the owner of the blond frozen moustache: Nestor Chaffino, chef and pastry cook, renowned for his masterful way with a chocolate fondant.”
Nestor has been hired to cater for a country house weekend. But he has come down to the cool room and the door has shut and located behind him. Was it a mistake? An accident? Or murder? The emergency alarm fails, and Nestor more and more anxiously tries to work out what to do. He considers who else is in the house and might hear his cries – a useful introduction to the cast. He hears noises outside and it seems rescue is at hand. But we already know otherwise.
It’s a stylish and gripping first chapter, and it whets the appetite for what is to come next.
What comes is the discovery of the body and an account of all of those in the house – where they are, what they are doing, what they are thinking – when they hear the finder’s cries. A diverse and colourful cast is brought to life. So far so good, but isn’t it time for the plot to get going?
Yes, it is! But it’s here that things start to go a little wrong.
You see, it is accepted that there has been a tragic accident. There is no investigation, no detective present and nobody to ask questions.
More and more is revealed about the characters, their secrets, their links, their relationships. And finally the truth of what happened on the night that Nestor died.
At one level the story is well constructed and well written. But there was nothing driving it. And although the cast was colourful, there was nobody to care about, nobody to hang on to.
The ending was interesting, but maybe a little bit of a cheat.
With the addition of a detective and an investigation this could have been a wonderful story. Without it was a book worth finishing, but a book that didn’t quite deliver.
Enough promise though in this first novel that I think I will pick up another of Carmen Posada’s books that I’ve seen in the library one of these days.
Translated by Christopher Andrews