In the latest novel from a master of European crime fiction, past, present, and future collide on a breathtaking journey from 1950s Morocco to modern-day Spain and Sweden.
Miguel and Helena meet at a nursing home in Tarifa, at an age when they believe they have lived it all already. Distanced from their children, they feel they are no longer needed. The sudden suicide of one of the other residents opens their eyes. They don’t want to spend their last days longing for supposedly better times, so together they decide to undertake the journey of their lives and confront the darkness in their pasts.
Meanwhile, in the distant Swedish city of Malmö, the young Yasmina, a child of Moroccan immigrants who dreams of being a singer, lives trapped between her authoritarian grandfather and her contemptuous mother, who is ashamed of Yasmina because she works for a Swede with a murky reputation. And she’s having a secret affair with the Deputy Commissioner of the Swedish police, an older, influential man.
As Yasmina is drawn deeper into Malmö’s criminal underworld and Miguel and Helena approach the end of their feverish road trip, Víctor del Árbol masterfully reconstructs the history of violence that links their seemingly disparate lives.
This overly ambitious novel from del rbol (Breathing Through the Wound) alternates between multiple characters in Spain and Sweden. In a retirement home in Tarifa, Spain, Miguel, who's showing signs of dementia and has painful memories of the Franco era, has befriended Helena, an Englishwoman with her own fraught past. In an effort to escape the weight of their respective personal histories, the pair set out on a road trip that will take them to Sweden, where Helena's son lives. Meanwhile, in Malm , Sweden, Yasmina, the daughter of Moroccan immigrants, is having an affair with a police officer and is at odds with her authoritarian grandfather. Eventually, Yasmina's story intersects with that of Miguel and Helena, with tragic results. Detailed backstories even of minor characters like a Russian thug slow the pace. Assured prose ("Memories were like termites, eating away at the present, boring holes in it and making it weak") makes up only in part for the cumbersome plot. This is more a meditation on family, circumstance, and violence, both political and personal, than it is a crime novel.