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Blood Wedding: A Sub-Inspector Max Romero Mystery Set in Granada by P.J. Brooke
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Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Soho Constable Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569478547
Date: 01 September 2010 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Leila Mahfouz is a beautiful, twenty-three-year-old British Muslim; she is visiting her father Ahmed who lives in Diva, a small village located in the Sierra Nevada mountains outside Granada, Spain. A university graduate student, she is writing her thesis on the Spanish Civil War. Her research takes a slight detour when she becomes fixated on the 1937 assassinations of several musicians, one of whom is the famous Federico García Lorca who wrote Blood Wedding, a Flamenco ballet with a tragic theme similar to that of Romeo and Juliet.

When Leila's corpse is found in a ravine beneath a bridge, Sub-Inspector Max Romero of the Policía National de Granada investigates her murder. The suspects are many; the prime one is young Hassan Khan who lives at the Ibn Rush'd Centre, a training camp for Muslim business entrepreneurs. Because of the Iraq war, an Anti-Terrorist Group has been established to investigate suspected terrorist cells in Spain. Suspected of being a terrorist, Hassan is brutalized by the local police. Prejudice and hatred escalate in Granada until there is more bloodshed.

P.J. Brooke's debut novel, Blood Wedding, has everything a mystery fan craves: An exotic locale, plenty of action, a high body count, a baffling mystery, a complex plot with numerous subplots, and a handsome inspector surrounded by beautiful women. What I enjoyed most was the brutal history of the Spanish Civil War and how it played a crucial role in the present day murder of Leila Mahfouz. Basically, there are two mysteries. Who killed Leila and who betrayed Lorca and his friend Antonio Vargas (Max Romero's great uncle)? In Blood Wedding, the reader learns that history truly does repeat itself.

With its Medieval palaces, fortresses, and monasteries, rich with Moorish history, albeit a bloody one, Granada is a beautiful and fascinating city. At night, the streets come alive with Flamenco dancing. Olive trees and grape vines are plentiful. Wine is drunk in abundance with every meal. Delicacies include bulls' tails and sea urchins. Though the days are stifling hot, one can see the snow atop the mountains of the Sierra Nevada that rise high above Granada. It is a city where the past clashes with the present, the poor clash with the rich and the Catholics clash with the Muslims.

Grenada is Europe's Islamic capital; it contains some of the most important centers of Islamic learning, one of which is the Ibn Rush'd Centre. Its members are harassed, humiliated, and abused by the local police of the Diva Guardia Civil. Many of the migrant workers in Spain are Muslim; they perform most of the manual labor. The prejudice towards them reminded me of the prejudice Americans feel towards migrant workers from Mexico. Max, however, is not prejudice; he serves as community liaison between the police and the Muslims. In fact, he was friends with Leila and her father Ahmed. Knowing many of the Islamic traditions, he, along with his grandmother Doña Paula, attended Leila's funeral.

One can't help but admire the handsome Max Romero with his Scottish blue eyes and dark Spanish features. Speaking fluent English, he was educated in Glasgow, Scotland and is a fan of the poems and dramas of Lorca. An atheist, he often laments the fighting between the Christians and Muslims; I laughed when he said, "God save us from religions". Though single, Max believes in family and is very close to his grandmother and his cousin Juan who play significant roles. Max is also an asthmatic who must always have his inhaler; there are several situations where it prevents him from dying.

Blood Wedding has a very complex plot that combines history, religion and politics. There are many subplots and characters with long Spanish names. You may want to take notes. The only time I ever got confused was during lengthy conversations and I would lose track of which character was speaking. A glossary of Spanish terms and titles would've been helpful. (My one year of high school Spanish was useful.) For example Teniente is usually the title for a lieutenant in the police force and Doña is a title denoting respect for a woman, usually one who is elderly and/or wealthy. Having read this novel, I want to visit Granada and explore my Spanish roots.

P.J. Brooke's Blood Wedding is a must read for mystery fans who, like myself, crave suspense and excitement in beautiful, exotic lands. I enjoyed it so much that I have already begun reading its sequel, A Darker Night which involves the murder of a gypsy ex-convict, Paco Maya. Like its predecessor, A Darker Night deals with the prejudices and vices of man and is set against a turbulent, controversial background of politics and religion. P.J. Brooke is the pseudonym for a husband and wife writing team who have had very successful careers in both Scotland and Spain.

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