Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mystery Book Review: A Dead Man in Barcelona by Michael Pearce

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of A Dead Man in Barcelona by Michael Pearce. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

A Dead Man in Barcelona by Michael Pearce

A Seymour of Scotland Yard Mystery

Soho Constable (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-537-7 (1569475377)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-537-9 (9781569475379)
Publication Date: December 2008
List Price: $25.00

Review: Sandor Seymour of the Special Branch of Scotland Yard investigates a cold case, the mysterious death of an Englishman some two years previous, in A Dead Man in Barcelona, the fifth mystery in this series by Michael Pearce.

Sam Lockhart, a businessman based in Gibraltar, had been arrested as part of a general crack-down by the Spanish government during what was popularly known as "Tragic Week", a week in mid-summer 1909 when conscripts from Catalonia were ordered to fight a war in Spanish Morocco but rioted instead. "And this man Lockhart was mixed up in it?" asks the Deputy Commissioner. "Apparently," replies Seymour. "It sounds even less our kind of thing," says the Deputy Commissioner. "In fact, it doesn't sound our kind of thing at all." It turns out the man was poisoned in his cell, murdered by any other name. The Spanish authorities, years later, still haven't issued their official report. "But two years ... when is the report expected?" asks Seymour. "Soon," the prison governor replies, "Soon." Still, Seymour jumps at the chance to investigate, if not for truly altruistic reasons. For it is in Barcelona that he arranges to meet Chantale, the woman he intends to marry.

At scarcely 200 pages, A Dead Man in Barcelona is a mystery of modest length, yet it is filled with rich details of the period and place. But this is a hallmark of the books in this series, where the reader is transported back in time and immersed in the events being investigated by Seymour. More driven by character than plot, the narrative nonetheless introduces several potential lines of inquiry for Seymour to explore. In the end, he says, "The difficult thing for me was to distance myself from everyone's suggestions. Everyone thought they knew the answer and was eager to give it to me. Before they had been asked the questions."

A Dead Man in Barcelona is a solid entry in this series that, although comparable in many ways to the author's mysteries featuring the Mamur Zapt, continues to establish its own unique identity.

Special thanks to Soho Press for providing an ARC of A Dead Man in Barcelona for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Barcelona, 1912, a city still recovering from the dramatic incidents of the so-called "Tragic Week" when Catalonian conscripts bound for the unpopular war in Spanish Morocco had rebelled at the city's dockside against the royalist forces. In the fighting, many were killed, and afterward, even more imprisoned, including an Englishman, who was later found dead in his cell.

The dead man had been a prominent businessman in Gibraltar, so what was he doing in Barcelona? And how did he really meet his end, murdered in a prison cell? The case, in Gibraltar's view, cries out for investigation -- and by someone independent of the Spanish authorities. So Scotland Yard dispatches Seymour of the Special Branch.

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