Saturday, April 25, 2015

On the Coffee Table: Manuel Vázquez Montálban

Title: Off Side: A Pepe Carvalho Investigation
Author: Manuel Vázquez Montálban
via Amazon
Off Side is one of a series of novels the Spanish author Montálban wrote about Barcelona-based detective Pepe Carvalho.  In this story, a newly signed center forward at FC Barcelona is receiving poetic death threats.  The book was published in 1989 and reflects a time of profound transition for the city, spurred by preparations to host the 1992 Olympics.  The story also provides an intriguing view of the soccer world's underbelly.

The book's language is frequently delightful, even in translation (courtesy of Ed Emery).  A couple of my favorite passages:
As long as there are young prostitutes, there will also be contemporary art, he thought, and this thought proved to him that he had reached the desired level of alcoholic surrealism.
She was about forty-nine, but looked fifty. Carvalho had often observed that people who looked a year older than they really were were very bitter people.
However, it's less than satisfying as a mystery novel.  The reader knows everything while the detective (slight spoiler) never manages to piece much together at all (end of spoiler).  Carvalho's an endearing character, though - a bit cranky, pedantic about the things that are important to him and indifferent to the things that aren't.  He's passionate about food and its proper preparation.  Apparently, other books in the series focus more on the culinary world.

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