A complex and totally gripping literary thriller from one of our most exciting young authors. 'A class act...For once a novelist influenced by Raymond Chandler is not shown up by the comparison' -- Sunday Times 1941. Europe's as dark as a coal hole and Lisbon's the furnace mouth. Klaus Felsen, press-ganged into the SS from his Berlin factory, has arrived at the strangest party in history where Nazis and Allies, refugees and entrepreneurs dance in a whirl of opportunism and despair. Felsen's war takes him out of the spy-ridden hotel lounges and into the bleak mountains of the north where a less sophisticaed, more brutal battle is being fought for an element vital to Hitler's blitzkrieg. There he meets the man who will start the first turn of the cycle of greed and revenge which wheels through the next fifty years. Inspector Ze Coelho, an outsider in the insider world of the Policia Judiciaria in modern day Lisbon, is investigating the death of a young girl with a disturbing sexual past. As Ze digs deeper into her insignificant death, he finds he's turning the dark soil of history and unearthing old bones. The Portuguese revolution is hardly a generation old and the injustices of the old fascist regime have never been fully resolved. But there is an older and even greater injustice which this small death in Lisbon has sought, horrifically, to redress, and in Ze's final push for the truth, he must confront a more chilling, powerful and resistant force.
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Penzler Pick, August 2000: Winner of the prestigious Gold Dagger Award in the U.K. for the best mystery of 1999, this complex literary thriller may be one of the most satisfying suspense novels to come along in some time. Robert Wilson has written several political thrillers, most of which are set in West Africa, but they are, alas, largely unavailable in the U.S.
In A Small Death in Lisbon, the narrative switches back and forth between 1941 and 1999, and Wilson's wide knowledge of history and keen sense of place make the eras equally vibrant. In 1941 Germany, Klaus Felsen, an industrialist, is approached by the SS high command in a none-too-friendly manner and is "persuaded" to go to Lisbon and oversee the sale--or smuggling--of wolfram (also known as tungsten, used in the manufacture of tanks and airplanes). World War II Portugal is neutral where business is concerned, and too much of the precious metal is being sold to Britain when Germany needs it to insure that Hitler's blitzkrieg is successful.
Cut to 1999 Lisbon, where the daughter of a prominent lawyer has been found dead on a beach. Ze Coehlo, a liberal police inspector who is a widower with a daughter of his own, must sift through the life of Catarina Oliviera and discover why she was so brutally murdered. Her father is enigmatic, her mother suicidal; her friends were rock musicians and drug addicts.
The reader is treated to a wonderful portrait of Lisbon in the aftermath of the 1974 revolution that ousted Salazar from power, and the scars from that conflict are still close to the surface for the citizens of Lisbon, including Coehlo and his colleagues. We also see World War II in a slightly different manner from that to which we are accustomed--through the eyes of the Germans and the Portuguese. The pace of the book is leisurely but compelling as the events of 1941 and those in 1999 merge in an extraordinary climax. --Otto PenzlerAbout the Author:
Robert Wilson has spent several years in West Africa, and he drew on this experience for his Bruce Medway novels. He and his wife now live in Portugal, the setting for A Small Death in Lisbon.
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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M000232668X