A Darker Night
by P.J. Brooke
Cover Artist: Photo: Ken Welsh / Almy
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Soho Constable Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569476246
Date: 01 September 2010 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Paco Maya, a peasant gypsy convicted of knifing to death his wife Lucía during a drunken brawl, has just been released from prison. Several parties, including violent in-laws and greedy land developers, want the property on which his cave house is located. Soon after his release, Paco is found dead, victim of an apparent heart attack. Because he is a poor gypsy, the Granada police aren't concerned; however, Sub-Inspector Max Romero suspects foul play. He also believes that Paco's murder is linked with the Easter Processions, the Anti-Globalization demonstrations, and the laundering of drug money. Corpses begin stacking up as Max gets closer to uncovering the identity of the one responsible for purchasing historical properties.
A Darker Night is P.J. Brooke's second Spanish crime noir in the Sub-Inspector Max Romero series. It is an extremely complex mystery with numerous sub-plots and characters. The reader is more likely to get overwhelmed, rather than bored, with A Darker Night. Very similar to Blood Wedding, this one also involves prejudice, especially in the police force, which is eager to dismiss Paco's death as natural. Once again, Max uncovers corruption in the police department as well as the Catholic Church. However, don't fear, there is no Catholic bashing. Max remains good friends with wise Father Jorge who helps him in his investigation. He continues to aid his grandmother Paula in uncovering the mass grave in which her brother Antonio is buried. Max is still getting his idiot cousin Juan out of trouble with the law.
The beautiful women are still pursuing the handsome Max who is half Scottish and half Spanish. His relationship with Anita Guevarra of Blood Wedding has cooled down; he soon finds himself friends with the American writer Belinda, a neighbor Dolores, a secretary Gloria and an environmentalist Margarita who is attending the Anti-Globalization conference. He develops a romantic relationship with Margarita who is the daughter of wealthy Faustino Azul. Both the lives of Max and Margarita are put in jeopardy. Max finds himself working for the evil Inspector Navarro from Blood Wedding who may be involved in more police corruption. Max's boss, the hardnosed Inspector Jefe Davila, continues to criticize his work. Fortunately, Max is partnered with the competent Roberto Belén who watches his back.
Granada during Easter is an exotic locale for A Darker Night. With its medieval castles and cathedrals surrounded by luscious fruit orchards and vineyards and snowcapped mountains, it seems like a virtual paradise. At night, numerous candle-lit Catholic Easter Processions are being held in downtown Granada. Throngs of penitents walk barefoot down the ancient streets carrying statues of the Virgin Mary and the crucified Jesus. At the same time, people from all around the world are attending the Anti-Globalization conference, which is against the purchasing of historical lands by greedy developers. Protestors fill the streets and storm a cathedral. There is mass confusion and chaos when police are called and demonstrators are hosed with water and beaten with clubs.
Corruption. Corruption. Corruption. At one point, Sub-Inspector Max Romero is literally drowning in it. He doesn't always know who to trust in a mystery that continuously grows more complicated. He is forced to take notes and list all the clues. I also had to take notes. Strangely enough, I think my Spanish is improving. (After reading A Darker Night, I'm ready to jump on a plane and visit the extremely gorgeous, extremely historical city of Granada.) If you like exotic mysteries that are intellectually challenging, then A Darker Night is just for you. This is a violent Spanish crime noir with drug smuggling, suicide, kidnapping, corrupt officials, spying, sniper shooting and lots more. If you enjoyed Blood Wedding, then you will definitely want to read A Darker Night. I pray that P.J. Brooke (husband and wife writing team Philip J. O'Brien and Jane Brooke) will continue this thrilling mystery series.