Silent and the Damned by
hbk out September 04
Published by HarperCollins
If I had a criticism of Robert Wilson's last extraordinary novel The Blind Man of
Seville, it was that, in his (rightful) determination to deliver the psychological
justification for its devastating climax, one or two plot strands from earlier in the story
were left just too tantalisingly in the air.
No such reservations here. Wilson delivers an enthralling, thought-provoking
thriller that you'll find all but impossible to lower on to the bedside table. And, whilst
most aspects of Inspector Jefe Javier Falcón's case may be wrapped up, its resolution
(as in all the best crime fiction) should leave disturbing and far-reaching questions in
the mind of every reader.
No. 2 in the series picks up the troubled Chief Inspector just over a year after the
conclusion of Blind Man. Falcón has weathered the media frenzy that resulted from
that case and is slowly coming to terms with his family's past (and present).
Sufficiently so not to find it unwelcome, when asked to investigate an apparent
husband and wife suicide pact in an exclusive suburb of Seville, that it is the magnetic
Consuelo Jiminéz (one of those plot strands from the earlier book) living across the
street from the departed couple, who has reported the crime.
But first things first. Minute forensic examination of the crime scene fails to
provide real evidence of murder, only a mysterious note clutched in the hand of the
dead man, Rafael Vega, that includes a reference to '9/11'. It quickly becomes clear
that only an intensive investigation behind Vega's public face (small scale property
developer and builder) might provide an answer.
More on the deceptiveness of appearances then, a favourite theme of Wilson's?
Yes, but here explored on several levels through probing, often electric, dialogue
scenes and an extensive cast of Vega's friends and acquaintances. They include not
only Consuelo but Pablo Ortega, a famous actor, his career on hold after his son was
convicted of abusing a child, along with Vega's architect, American Marty Krugman
and his wife Maddy, a jaw-dropping beauty whose photography specialises in
catching moments of private anguish in public places. Before long a rather different
picture of Vega starts to emerge; an Argentinean passport, Russian partners in his
business, people trafficking. It's a spiralling tale that explores the hidden corruption
behind the public face, both that of individuals and their families, but also of the
institutions that they create.
Clearly conceived in tandem with The Blind Man of Seville, that book remains
the best introduction to the dark world of Javier Falcón. But together with this
indispensable follow-up, it is clear that Robert Wilson is doing for the crime novel
what le Carré did for the spy story: giving it authority, depth and scope. I doubt I'll
read anything better this year.