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Blood Crime by Sebastià Alzamora

Blood Crime

by Sebastià Alzamora

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  1. 10
    A Monster's Notes by Laurie Sheck (marietherese)
    marietherese: While these two books appear to have little in common on the surface, I think both are interesting meditations on "monstrosity", on monsters (human and constructed, natural and supernatural) on the body, and on alienation. Both are also historical fiction, by writers with a background in poetry, who give free reign to their imagination with powerful imagery while attempting to stay somewhat true to the historical language of their respective eras. I think these two books together on a syllabus would be rewarding and illuminating (although they'd take a heck of a lot of reading time!)… (more)

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Sebastià Alzamora does not seem to know what kind of novel he wants to write with BLOOD CRIME. Is it historical fiction about war and religious persecution? Is it gothic horror about vampires? Is it an allegory of good and evil? Is it a crime novel? Is it meant to be a thriller? This unfortunate lack of focus leads to a superficial treatment of just about everything in the book.

The lack of subtlety in much of the writing also is a serious flaw. The narrative contains copious examples of symbolism that are often heavy-handed. Here are just a few examples—there are many more: religious music (Stabat Mater), designed to portray Mary’s suffering during the crucifixion and a 13 year-old pre-pubertal virgin novice nun for innocence and religious persecution; a vampire for evil incarnate; a deformed and cripple anarchist leader for a catastrophic revolution; a massive automaton horse as revenge triumphant. Likewise, the characters lack nuance. Most major characters are portrayed as either heroic or irredeemably evil.

The story is set in 1936 Barcelona where the Spanish Civil War is raging and anarchists are systematically killing clergy. The Marist brothers negotiate with the anarchists for safe passage to France while the Capuchin nuns take advantage of familial connections to the anarchist leader for their safety in exchange for housing the Bishop of Barcelona for future use as a propaganda tool. Bishop Gabriel Perugorría turns out to be quite a bad dude who is attracted to Sister Concepció, a young innocent novice. Alzamora attempts to build suspense by slowly revealing the Bishop’s true nature, but his handling of the first person narratives sprinkled through the book signals it from the first page.

Manuel Escorza del Vala—a real historical anarchist—is portrayed as totally corrupt. He is willing to deal with anyone to gain advantages for the revolution, but also for himself. Honor is not one of his strong suits.

Superintendent Gregori Muñoz is assigned to investigate the murder of a clergyman and a young child. He is a heroic figure who is not easily duped, but is slow to accept the suggestion of the forensic physician who suspects that the two were murdered by a vampire.

Inexplicably, Alzamora adds a horse to his tale. This horse is heroic in both size and nature. Yet its most bizarre feature is that it is a machine built in collaboration between a judge and the forensic doctor using parts from people murdered during the revolution. One wonders if their professions and the repurposed body parts signal judgment for offenses against Nature?

The writing is not particularly elegant, but this may be the fault of the translation. This notwithstanding, the narrative pacing is slow because it moves unevenly between groups and settings. There is plenty of bloodshed in the climax but, lacking suspense, it is unsatisfying. ( )
  ozzer | Oct 22, 2016 |
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It is 1936, and Barcelona burns as the Spanish Civil War takes over. The city is a bloodbath. Yet in all this death, the murders of a Marist monk and a young boy, drained of their blood, are strange enough to catch a police inspector's attention. His quest for justice is complicated by the politics, dangers, and espionage of daily life in a war zone. The Marist brothers of the murdered monk are being persecuted; meanwhile, a convent of Capuchin nuns hides in plain sight, trading favors with the military police to stay alive. In their midst is a thirteen-year-old novice who stumbles into the clutches of the murderer. Can she escape in this city of no happy endings? Narrated by a vampire who thrives in the havoc of the war, this stunning novel, inspired by the true story of a massacre in the early days of the Spanish Civil War, is a gothic reflection on the nature of monsters, in all their human forms.… (more)

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