Monday, February 09, 2009

Alicia Giménez-Bartlett’s Inspector Petra Delicado Series

What a happy discovery Alicia Giménez-Bartlett's Inspector Petra Delicado series has proven to be.

I usually like to begin a series at the beginning and, although the translations of the Petra Delicado novels have been published out of order (as is so often and so annoyingly the case with European crime fiction), the first three books are all now available in English. But Prime Time Suspect, the third in the series, was the first to turn up on the library hold shelf, so I dived in there.

I confess that it took me a bit of time to fully enter into the book. I was distracted by a slightly off-kilter quality to the dialogue which I initially assumed to be a flaw in the translation. But I soon realized that the source of the dissonance wasn't the dialogue but rather the character of Petra Delicado. She never responds in quite the way one would expect, whether to a new development in the investigation, an emotional scene with her visiting sister, or a bit of banter with her (also rather eccentric) partner Sergeant Fermín Garzón. Her methods, her politics, and her philosophy of life are sufficiently unconventional that I found myself reading avidly as much to see what she would do and say next as to get to the bottom of the plot. Mind you, the suspense of the plot propelled me along nicely as well with plenty of twists and turns that had me guessing right to the end. And the glimpses of Spain, a country of which I know little, were a bonus as well. The series is set primarily in Barcelona, but the investigation at the heart of Prime Time Suspect had Inspector Delicado and Sergeant Garzón travelling back and forth between Barcelona and Madrid a number of times, and reflecting on the distinct character of each city in very interesting and illuminating fashion.

By the time I finished Prime Time Suspect, the copy of Death Rites that I'd ordered had arrived. So now I'm well into it, and relishing the opportunity to learn some of the back story: how Delicado developed into the woman and the police officer that she has become, and how her partnership with Sergeant Garzón developed.

That leaves me with just one more to acquire: Dog Day. But a quick google search reveals that at least seven novels in the series have been published in Spanish, and I dearly hope that more of them are due to be translated into English, as I'm keen to continue following the adventures of Inspector Delicado and Sergeant Garzón.

(Thanks to Danielle whose mention of Alicia Giménez-Bartlett prompted me to seek out these books—and I see that she too has enjoyed her first encounter with Petra Delicado.)


Danielle said...

I really enjoyed the first Petra Delicado mystery as well. It also took a while to get into and both Petra and Fermin are a little quirky, but it all worked. I thought the language a little unusual as well, I noticed some British-isms that sounded a little different to my ear, but I can totally imagine her saying them. Do you think these are meant to be fairly contemporary time-wise? Next time I order books I plan on getting the next two as well. I'm glad there are more yet to be translated!

Anonymous said...

I cannot wait to read these! They sound wonderful -- thanks to you and Danielle for giving them the thumbs up.

Kailana said...

Once I get my library holds down a little bit I will have to look into this series. I like to read a mystery here and there for some variety.

Dorothy W. said...

These books sound very good -- possibilities for my mystery book club, I think. I'll keep them in mind when it's my turn to make a suggestion!

Ana said...

I read the book in spanish as I got it from friend who said it's easy to read and suprisingly I love it!I don't usually like the crime books but Petra is fantastic. I like her way of being and thinking, she is nothing like typical person and I feel I can perfectly understand her.
Besides Barcelona...te quiero!

Stan Ulrich said...

Just a picky point: per AGB's website, it looks like the 1st, 2nd, and 4th books are in English (out of order, as you note), not the first 3 -- "En los años noventa creo el personaje de Petra Delicado, la popular inspectora que ha protagonizado Ritos de muerte (1996), Días de perros (1997), Mensajeros de la oscuridad (1999), Muertos de papel (2000), Serpientes en el paraíso (2002) y Un barco cargado de arroz (2004)..." Muertos de papel being Prime Time Suspect. As to order, it isn't just the American publishers who mess things up. The Spanish, copied by the English (Bitter Lemon -- one of my favorite publishers), issued the Leonardo Padura "Mario Conte" books out of order, even though they are based on the 4 seasons, and need to be read in the correct order.

Cheers, Stan

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