The Good Suicides by Antonio Hill

The Good Suicides by Antonio Hill

It’s a good time for crime fiction. Seven out of ten books borrowed from libraries are crime fiction. The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is becoming a major summer fixture. JK Rowling has entered the game and Gillian Flynn’s place on the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction showed that the genre can be taken seriously as literature. The only trouble is choosing what, from such an array, to read. The familiarity of an ongoing series? A bestseller? Something old? Something new? Or perhaps something from abroad? How about The Good Suicides by Antonio Hill?

The Good Suicides

Since the crashing tsunami of Scandi-noir opened up the world of crime-in-translation, I’ve read my way from Beijing to Rio, with multiple sidetracks around most of Europe. The Good Suicides was my first visit to Barcelona. The second in a series of detective stories featuring Inspector Héctor Salgado – whose first outing, The Summer of Dead Toys, was a bestseller – it’s a book that ticks a lot of boxes. Did it tick mine?

Happy New Year?

The main plotline has Salgado investigating a cluster of suicides linked to a Barcelona business, Alemany Cosmetics. A disturbing photograph of dogs hanging from a tree has been found in the emails of all of the victims, but where did it come from? And why is the executive management of the company closing ranks against the investigation?

Meanwhile, Agent Leire Castro is finding maternity leave hard work. To pass the time, she picks up the threads of an unsolved disappearance, that of Salgado’s wife, Ruth. Add in Salgado’s problematic relationship with his teenage son, in-fighting at police headquarters, and the tangled web of relationships which makes up the senior staff at the cosmetics company, and we are set for a complex ride through the Spanish festival of Reyes.

A House of Cards

This is a classy read. The story clips along at a nice pace, and there’s some lovely writing. For some reason, my copy always opens at “Cities, like dogs, are never fully asleep”, which is a great line. Although I haven’t yet read the first novel in the series, I enjoyed the way themes from that book were continued across, and I especially loved the spiky character of Leire Castro.

There are a lot of characters, mind you, and it can be challenging to keep all the names in order. Hill is especially skilled at homing in on a relationship and laying it bare, and he unrolls any number of tantalising glimpses, but sometimes I wanted him to pick on one or two and develop them properly.

All writing has an element of building card houses. You need a steady hand, and it doesn’t take much for the whole structure to fall in on itself. The Good Suicides held it together, but I wasn’t far in before the motif of the hanging dogs started to feel a bit… insubstantial. I was reading with an undercurrent in my mind that I hoped Hill could pull a good conclusion together. In the event, it wasn’t the conclusion I was expecting, and it was better than I was expecting, but, for me anyway, it only just worked. Somewhere along the way, the tension had dissipated.

Put some time aside

To finish on a positive note, I’ll definitely be reading The Summer of Dead Toys before too long, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series. If the cards aren’t quite aligned here to make this a great book, it’s still a very good read. And something tells me that it won’t be long before we see Salgado making an appearance on our television screens.

The Good Suicides is published by Black Swan and beautifully translated by Laura McLoughlin.

You can find it on Amazon here, but better still, get it from your local independent bookseller.

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