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 Zé Coelho, an outsider in the insider world of the Policía Judicíaria in modern day Lisbon, is investigating the death of a young girl with a disturbing sexual past. As Zé 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 régime 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 Zé’s final push for the truth, he must confront a more chilling, powerful and resistant force.
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In such distinctively written novels as A Darkening Stain and Blood is Dirt, Robert Wilson established a solid claim to be the heir apparent of such major writers as Graham Greene in fusing thriller elements with brilliantly written novels of character. His speciality was the luminous creation of atmosphere in his exotic locales, and his 1999 Golden Dagger winner, A Small Death in Lisbon represents the most cogent example yet of this rare ability.
Europe, 1941: Lisbon is one of the world's tensest cities, and as the Nazis and Allies jostle for power, Iberia becomes a fulcrum for the menace that is about to engulf Europe. Klaus Felsen, torn from his Berlin factory to become a reluctant member of the SS, finds himself drawn into a savage battle for a vital element in Hitler's Blitzkrieg. There he meets a man who will set in motion a sinister conspiracy that will last to the end of the century.
Lisbon, 1998: Inspector Zé Coelho is struggling against the closed ranks of his colleagues in the investigation of the brutal murder of a young girl. Her disturbing sexual past is the focus for his colleagues' attention, but as Coelho begins to unearth some remarkable secrets behind her death, he encounters a plot that stretches beyond the 1974 Portuguese revolution--back to the atrocities of the fascist regime. Soon he is facing a terrifying opponent in his battle to uncover the horrors of the past.
The protagonist as an outsider in a hostile community may not be a new literary device, but rarely is it so adroitly handled. Coelho is a fully rounded character, vividly realised and handled with an unflinching honesty. The complexity of the narrative stays clear and compelling because of Wilson's ability to sharply rein various plot lines, while slowly allowing them to unfold. Although more ambitious and epic in its scope than his previous books, A Small Death in Lisbon retains all the author's customary and mesmerising imagery:
It was at about that time that a girl started to make her dent in the sand no more than the few hundred metres away from where I was sleeping. Her eyes wide open, she moonbathed to a night full of stars, her blood slack, her skin cold and hard as fresh tuna.-- Barry Forshaw Review:
Praise for Robert Wilson:
‘Excellent… gripping and grim. A vivid and steamy stumble on the wild side’
‘A densely plotted thriller, prickling with excitement… fiercely imagined and not a little frightening’
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