Criticism of Lorenzo Silva and Noemí Trujillo’s latest: Inspector Mauri in the midst of Covid

The invocation, within a novel, of other literary texts of the same genre or of a different genre, what we call, in short, meta-literature, is not an easy but prodigal art. in danger. It can be too intellectual, heavy because scholarly or directly pedantic, just as it can, on the contrary, fall into naivety and banality when the mention of these works is unjustified or superficial. Since Lorenzo Silva and Noemí Trujillo began the narrative cycle starring homicide inspector Manuela Mauri with ‘Si esto es una mujer’ in 2019, they have shown a clear metaliterary will of pedagogical intent by paraphrasing in the very title of this work the famous ‘If it’s a man’ by Primo Levi. Will and intentionality which are today endorsed by ‘La forge d’un rebelle’, the second part of this series, which paraphrases in the title that of ‘La forge d’un rebelle’, the trilogy of novels published by the writer Spanish Arturo Barea between 1940 and 1945 in England where he had been exiled and in which he recounted his various autobiographical experiences in childhood, adolescence and youth; from his first and precarious job in Madrid in the first quarter of the 20th century to his participation in the Spanish Civil War, before passing through his experience of the Rif War.

The metaliterary allusion is not gratuitous. If, on the one hand, it is not exactly due to the fact that a serious similarity can be drawn between the stories told by the two texts or between the characters of their characters, Barea’s work becomes a recurring motif and a point of reference for the plot. , first because it appears to be the favorite read of Carlota, the 19-year-old girl whose biological father and stepmother were shot dead in her home, a chalet near Madrid’s La Rinconada park. This will not be the only literary reference that appears in a novel that is full of them: Julio Cortázar, Pável Kohout, Jack London, Herman Melville, Alejandro Dumas, Agatha Christie… Allusions to the “Ten little blacks” of the famous British writer are inevitable in from the moment there are also ten friends of Carlota who attended the illegal party she had called in the house of one of them during the first stage of the pandemic and at a few hours coinciding with those where twice as many had to be murdered.

Edit. Destination. 330 pages. €19.50.

The narrative action of ‘The Forge of a Rebel’ takes place between the months of April and December 2020. Thus, the text attests to the rarefied atmosphere of the first confinement, the deserted streets and the limitations of movement since the first chapter. in which Manuela Mauri speaks to the reader in the first person about the drama of her friend Martina, whose mother, already suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, is one of the first victims of Covid. The novel, in which the private life, domestic problems and personal circumstances of its heroine take on as much importance as the criminal intrigue that she must unravel, traces a costumbrista fresco of those singular days. Thus, with the information he receives on the steps in progress in the police investigation, the reader also has news of the claustrophobic situation of the two children of the inspector, one of 10 years old and the other of 17 years old, who find themselves locked in their house with Alberto, their mother’s boyfriend, with whom the two boys, especially the eldest, have a relationship full of predictable tensions.

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The novel exudes plausibility in the behaviors and reactions of the characters as well as in the unpleasant portrait it paints of the daughter of the victims, a girl who knows how to take advantage of an overflowing physical attraction which – we are told – reminds us of Nicole Kidman and who does not go unnoticed by Sub-Inspector Gutiérrez, whose devoted and helpful attitude towards the girl is convincingly ridiculed by his partner and boss.

Lorenzo Silva and Noemí Trujillo reproduce in the 332 pages of this second novel of the Inspector Mauri cycle a plot scheme very similar to that usually followed by the first of these two authors in his famous Bevilacqua and Chamorro series; a scheme that consists of skilfully dosing clues that generate in the reader the feeling of walking alongside the couple of civil guards in the resolution of each case and that they have no tricky aces up their sleeve.

Next Review: "Sounds Wild and Broken", by David George Haskell