Review - BLOOD MED, Jason Webster
The 4th book in the Max Cámara series, which means if, like this reader, you've missed the first three, there's something to look forward to.
Set in post financial meltdown Spain, BLOOD MED is part crime fiction, part police procedural, part analysis of a society that's bottomed out. The King's illness seems to have provided yet more impetus for riots and thugs roaming the streets. Against this backdrop the brutal murder of a young American woman, and the suspect suicide of an ex-bank clerk seem oddly dwarfed. Not helped by the Machiavellian games being played by Cámara's boss setting him and his partner and friend Torres off against each other - budget cuts meaning one of them is going to lose their job.
Add to the tensions in the police, the health service is rapidly falling apart, with insufficient drugs for patient treatment, banks are foreclosing and leaving properties empty all over the place, and some people have been forced to live in the tunnels of the ridiculously expensive, and unfinished underground rail system. Needless to say, official corruption is at the heart of so much that's wrong.
It all feels like a very current day, and one can't help thinking very realistic, scenario. And there is a lot of concentration on those societal aspects in BLOOD MED. Whilst the investigation of the murders does continue, often times it definitely does feel like the society dysfunction is all encompassing. And very personal.
Alongside Cámara there are a number of other main characters - Torres his colleague, his girlfriend Alicia and his much loved grandfather Hilario. All the main characters play reasonably high profile parts in the investigation and in the way that society is viewed, analysed and highlighted.
For a book that's 4th in a series it's quite easy to get into, there's enough background on the characters to give you a good understanding of how everyone fits together. It actually makes you want to go back and read the earlier 3 books.
BLOOD MED is crime fiction that uses the setting of the murders as a way of taking a long, hard, detailed look at the society in which they occurred. This is less crime fiction for fans of investigations and closure as it is for those who are looking for the why, and how things can get to the extremes of murder.
Spain is corrupt and on the brink of collapse. The king is ill, banks are closing, hospitals are in chaos, homes are lost, demonstrators riot and right wing thugs patrol the street. The tunnels beneath the streets are at once a refuge and a source of anger. And as the blood flows Cámara roars in on his motorbike...
Cámara is back in Valencia, with his partner Alicia and his anarchist, marijuana-growing grandfather Hilario. In the old police headquarters, the mood is tense, as the chief hunts for cuts - who will go, Cámara or his friend Torres? The two men are flung into action investigating the suicide of an ex- bank clerk and the brutal murder of a young American woman. As the city erupts around them, their case takes them into the heart of the trouble.
This dazzling new Cámara novel - constantly surprising, full of vivid characters - exposes the dark underside of today's Spain. A powerful, gripping page-turner, it confirms Max Cámara as the detective to watch, feeling the pulse of the moment.