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Dog Day by Alicia Giménez-Bartlett


Alicia Giménez-Bartlett may be little known outside Spain, but in her home country and in Latin America, she is one of their best-known and most-loved crime writers.

She was born in 1951 in Almansa, Albacete, Spain.  She has lived in Barcelona since 1975 and is frequently referred to as a Catalan writer.  Previously a teacher of Spanish literature, Gimenez-Bartlett has seen great success with her books and now writes full-time.  Her Petra Delicado books were serialised on Spanish television in 1999, and she has won a number of prestigious awards including the Feminino Lumen prize for the best female writer in Spain in 1997, and the Raymond Chandler award for noir literature in 2008.

This book is the second in the Petra Delicado series.  Delicado is a female inspector, something rare in crime fiction, especially in Spanish literature.  Indeed, the background reading I have done suggests that Delicado is the first Spanish fictional police inspector. Giménez-Bartlett set out deliberately to have a female protagonist, a woman who would be the main character, not one who assists a man or who dies on the first page: “Queria un personaje que fuera mujer y que tuviera protagonismo.  Porque la mujer en la novela negra o es la victime, que aperece muerta en le primera pagina, o es la ayudante de alguien.”  It is fair to say that crime fiction does not have a long history in Spain, perhaps because of the bad reputation of that institution under Franco: to read more on the social  aspects of this fiction series take a look at Sandra Kingery’s essay “Policing social injustice“.

Dog Day (Día de perros) is set in Barcelona, though few of the book’s locations are places that tourists will encounter.  Petra Delicado tells the story herself, so everything we see and hear is through her eyes and ears.  I have to say that for the first few pages I found the narrative a bit stilted.  I wasn’t sure if that was down to the translation or simply because I wasn’t used to Petra’s voice yet.  That feeling soon passed and I quickly became engrossed in a fast-moving, police murder enquiry.  The banter between Delicado and her assistant Fermin Garzon adds a little wry amusement, and it is hard not to like Delicado herself.  She stands no nonsense and takes a certain pleasure in embarrassing younger male colleagues.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and sped through its 300 pages.  I will definitely read more of the series.

This book would make an easy holiday read, and it serves to remind the Barcelona tourist that this is a real city, which the same social problems as suffered by most large cities.

Dog Day / Alicia Giménez-Bartlett.  -Europa Editions, New York, 1997.  – ISBN 9781933372143

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