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The Blind Man of Seville


The Blind Man of Seville

Robert Wilson lives in England, Spain and Portugal. He works in the
shipping trade between London and West Africa. His suspense novels
have been successfully published in England and Europe for a number
of years. Last year his book, A SMALL DEATH IN LISBON, won the CWA
Gold Dagger award, which resulted in well-deserved and long-overdue
publication in the United States. THE BLIND MAN OF SEVILLE is his
current book, out in February 2003 from Harcourt.

Wilson is an author who is not afraid to demand a lot of his
readers and he gives much in return, not only in the style of his
writing but also in the subject matter. A high standard was set for
American readers by A SMALL DEATH IN LISBON --- and A BLIND MAN OF
SEVILLE follows without exception. Along with keen psychological
insights, the book presents unflinching, relentless violence ---
and its author does not want us, the readers, to be blind to it.
The word "blind" in the title is there by design. In a prologue
that signals both the theme to come and the intensity that
characterizes the balance of the story, we are duly warned that, if
we get through the prologue, which is about torture from the point
of view of the victim, we will most likely want to read to the end
of the book. It is not an easy read but a rewarding one.

Javier Falcon is Inspector Jefe del Grupo de Homicidios de Sevilla,
informally called Inspector Jefe, though little is informal about
this fascinatingly withdrawn and solitary man. During Semana Santo,
the week immediately preceding Easter in the year 2001, Inspector
Jefe Falcon is called to the home of Raul Jimenez, a successful and
politically influential man in his 70s --- he had been tortured
until he died of heart failure. "His heart exploded," the coroner
says. The brutality of the crime scene suggests that Jimenez would
have been tortured until he died --- no matter how long it took ---
and there are signs that the victim deliberately acted in such a
way as to hasten his own death. Not the least of his injuries, but
the most telling, is the removal of his eyelids, both upper and
lower. Whatever Jimenez was forced to see upset him so much that he
further injured himself in a vain effort to avoid the sight.

It is clear from the condition of the apartment, which was nearly
devoid of furniture, that Jimenez was in the process of moving to a
new location. But nothing else is clear, especially to Inspector
Jefe Falcon, who reacts to the crime scene in ways he himself does
not understand and successfully conceals from his fellow

The primary suspect at the outset is the widow, Dona Consuelo
Jimenez. Neither Falcon nor anyone else is quite sure how seriously
to consider Consuelo as the murderer --- she is an enigma with icy
blue eyes (references to eyes, vision, sight, seeing etc., come up
repeatedly and are handled skillfully by the author). But the widow
is certainly not the only suspect, because Raul Jimenez was a man
who cultivated friends among the powerful and such men also make
enemies of equal power. Perhaps the murderer came out of Raul's
distant past, a time when he did not run with the rich and powerful
crowd. What could Jimenez have done that even a twisted mind would
devise such a fate for him? And why does this murder, more than any
other crime he has observed, strike such fear into the heart of the
chief inspector?

The book is as much a study in the character of the investigator,
Javier Falcon, as it is the story of a horrific crime. An
attractive character with a certain nobility, Falcon is the son and
heir of a famous Sevillano artist. After his father's death, he
went to live in his father's large, historic house --- grand,
haunting, possibly haunted. But this is no ghost story, nothing as
simple as that. The haunting is all in Javier's head. Or is it? The
tension is as relentless as the consequences; should he handle the
case unwisely, there will be terrible consequences for Falcon. As
in a classical tragedy, the man can all too easily be responsible
for his own downfall --- as we are uneasily and increasingly

Robert Wilson is best at producing and sustaining tension to the
point where it is almost unbearable. He is, perhaps unfortunately,
less good at moving his own story along. I say "perhaps" because
very few writers on either side of The Pond are quite so good at
putting together words that flow splendidly, sentence-by-sentence,
through the pages. But I am an American reader and I want the
action to move forward in my thrillers. When I'm reading a book
that includes a hefty dose of words and phrases in a language other
than English, I would appreciate a glossary at the back of the
book, if not a translation right on the page. If I have to read
Edificio del Presidente instead of the president's house, it takes
my eyes and brain a while to adjust before I'm no longer slowed
down by the Spanish --- and, in a thriller, every word that slows
me is hard not to resent. Whether this is a flaw in us American
readers, or a small flaw in the author's otherwise excellent work,
is debatable.

This one quibble aside, THE BLIND MAN OF SEVILLE is very much worth
the time it takes to read.

Reviewed by Ava Dianne Day on January 21, 2011

The Blind Man of Seville
by Robert Wilson

  • Publication Date: February 3, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0151008353
  • ISBN-13: 9780151008353