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Death of a Nationalist (Soho Crime) Paperback – 1 Mar 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press Inc (1 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569473447
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569473443
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.8 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,081,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Booksthatmatter on 29 Jun 2005
Format: Paperback
I picked up Rebecca Pawel's Death of a Nationalist in a random moment - it looked a bit moody and passed the judging-a-book-by-it's-cover test very nicely. My screeching 3 year old precluded more lengthy consideration - definitely a dash-and-grab raid. I've had a number of rather inspired finds through this dad with a mission approach. Well this is the best yet, what a stunner - I finished it in an evening and was desperate to move on to its sequel Law of Return which I dispatched just as swiftly. I've not had a chance to investigate Pawel further and know nothing of her but for a passing reference to her being a schoolteacher in Manhattan and young which seems an unlikely background, but... What most struck/impressed me was her ability to make a sympathetic hero out of a fascist guardia.She manages to make a hero of her villain while treading through the quagmire of the immediate post-civil war era in Spain - Hemmingway, Grahame Greene and Ian Rankin all somehow converge with a dash of something else I don't recognise - presumably Pawel!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Quentin Sadler on 25 Mar 2005
Format: Paperback
Superb, it breathes life into post Civil war Madrid & sheds light on the complicated morals of the time, showing how clear cut war time positions quickly lead to shades of grey in peace-time. A stunning book with a hero/anti-hero who is admirable even if his falangist/fascist views are odd to modern eyes. It captures the times perfectly & shows the suffering & the loss of humanity that people in a Civil War experience. This is a marvellous book, tight, gritty & exciting with an ending that i did not see coming.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 11 Feb 2014
Format: Hardcover
Setting her novel in 1939, in the immediate aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, author Rebecca C. Pawel carefully recreates many of the elements which led to that civil war and which continued during the partisan turmoil after that. Sometimes described by Republicans as "a war between tyranny and democracy," and by Nationalists as "a war between Communists, anarchists, and `Red Hordes' against civilization," the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) attracted extremists on both sides, and both sides committed atrocities against their fellow citizens. After the war, Gen. Francico Franco sets up the Guardia Civil, not the army, to police the cities.

The novel opens unobtrusively in Madrid with Maria Alejandra "Aleja" Palomino, age seven, hurrying home from school through her Republican neighborhood. She sees a guardia acting anxious, and soon afterward she hears shots. Hiding in terror, she later hears another guardia passing her hiding place, and when she eventually races for home, she discovers the first guardia lying dead. Terrified she drops one of her school notebooks. Since Aleja's Republican neighbors would not be likely to report a dead guardia immediately, her aunt, Tia Viviana, hurries out to retrieve the Aleja's missing book - paper is valuable and hard to get. She is caught picking it up, however, by two guardia, and when questioned, she denies any involvement, insisting she came only for a child's notebook. The guardia kill her anyway, thereby setting the scene for the action to follow.

Because the action, the motivations, and the shifting allegiances are complex here, the author wisely keeps her narrative style simple, moving the action along on the strength of her characters, who are memorable despite the fact that they are somewhat superficial.
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Format: Paperback
The strengths of Death of a Nationalist are the atmosphere and sense of place. Pawel captures the general paranoia and landscape of Madrid at the end of a civil war, where neighbours are not sure who they can trust and sections of the population are being hunted and arrested, people are starving and either hardened or broken, and the buildings and streets are damaged from bullets and bombs. Sergeant Carlos Tejada is a complex lead character, a learned and cultured man but also a battle hardened veteran. He is capable of torturing prisoners and killing in cold blood, and is generally standoffish, but can also be empathetic and romantic. It's an interesting mix, creating an anti-hero that is at the limits of reader sympathy. The other characters are reasonably well penned, but there is little in the way of back story with regards to the Llorente family with whom Tejada finds himself tangling. Moreover, the plot is a little convoluted and thin at times, and the ending is mostly told through an epilogue. Nevertheless, this first book in the series shows promise given its historical setting and lead character and I'd be interested to give the second a read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 26 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Grim and Unsparing Debut 31 Jan 2003
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Set in Madrid of 1939, just after the end of the Spanish Civil War, this intriguing crime book hinges on the politics of the place and time. Franco and his nationalist/fascist army and place are in power and busy hunting down remnants of the republican and communist resistance. Spain's cities are scarred by bullet and shell holes, food is exceedingly scarce, and reprisals and disappearances are the order of the day. To the greatly feared Guardia Civil falls the task of maintaining law and order, so when one of their own is shot in the street, a ruthless investigation led by the slain officer's former partner moves swiftly to identify the communist responsible for the assassination.
The investigator is Sgt. Tejada, a respected grizzled veteran who increasingly questions the official party line as he gets accustomed to life after the Civil War. A compelling character, he soon finds himself tangled in a complicated case involving the black market which may or may not be linked to his friend's murder. (French crime writer Didier Daeninckx employed a somewhat similar plot in his 1995 book, A Very Profitable War, set in Paris just after WWII). Meanwhile, a wounded republican must evade capture by the Guardia and mete out his own revenge. The two men's stories both revolve around vengeance, redemption, and hope-seen from opposite ends of the spectrum. Pawel manages to do this without creating a hero and villain dynamic-both are sympathetic, and both are flawed.
Ultimately, the book is rather grim and unsparing, and thus true to the nature of civil war. It's a very good debut, although readers without some previous knowledge of the Spanish Civil War may not get as much from it. If the setting is of interest, check out Alan Furst's spy novel, Night Soldiers, which is set partly in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, and Vittorio Giardino's graphic spy novel No Parasan!, which vividly captures battle-scared Barcelona of the era.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Compelling mystery set in post-Spanish Civil War Madrid 19 Feb 2003
By elkiedee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
When Tejada sees a woman standing by his friend's dead body, he assumes she must be the killer and shoots her in return.
This is post-Civil War Madrid and Tejada is part of the winning side's armed force helping to establish the new Francoite regime and clear out any "Reds" or supporters of the losing Republican side.
I was nervous initially on reading the blurb for this book as I wondered if I would enjoy a novel which appeared to be sympathetic to Franco's supporters. I need not have worried. In fact, the story is told from more than one point of view. Tejada is a major character but so is the dead woman's lover, her young niece and her niece's teacher.
The dead woman was trying to retrieve her niece's school notebook with her homework. It's not long before Tejada realises that his assumption may have been wrong and finds the notebook, prompting him to investigate further. While he's searching for his friend's killer, the dead woman's lover is looking for her killer, ie Tejada.
This turns out to be less a mystery about good and evil than one of shades of grey, though I do think Pawel's sympathies are ultimately with the republicans. It's a complicated and absorbing story, but the real strength of the book which stood out for me was skill in characterisation, and I found the portrayal of thoughts and feelings in reaction to historical situations a different and very convincing approach to writing a historical novel.
I hope I get a chance to read more books by this author.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Atmospheric historical mystery debut 26 Feb 2004
By Larry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The time is 1939 . The place is Madrid. A member of the guardia civil is murdered in the streets. Sergeant Carlos Tejada Alonso y Leon is assigned to look into the case. A woman is found at the scene kneeling at the body. It is assumed she is the killer. Her anger and verbal abuse leveled at the Nationalist guards confirming her staunch Republican views appears to seal the case. However, as Tejada looks into the past of the murder victim who was a friend of his, doubts begin to emerge.
Rebecca Pawel wonderfully evokes the setting of Spain just after its bloody civil war that put Franco into power. Much research went into this extremely well written debut. In fact, the immediacy of the setting brings to mind the war torn novels of J. Robert Janes. There is much poverty and misery on the streets where a simple bar of chocolate would be almost impossibly expensive to obtain. Tejada is a complex character. He evokes mixed feelings in the reader. In spite of summarily executing a prisoner, he reveals a great deal of depth in his views and aspirations. He honestly believes in the Nationalist cause and his strong convictions that he is right make him a sympathetic figure to the readers. The plot is relatively simplistic and not lengthy. A worthwhile and recommended read.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
fine crime story inside the horrors of the Spanish Civil War 7 Feb 2004
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In 1939 Madrid shows the impact of the deadly civil war with few willing to walk the streets unless necessity forces them to do so. The two sides loathe one another encouraging and participating in inhuman abuses. While the Nationalists and the Republicans sporadically fight, the Guardia Civil tries to keep law and order. In a world gone loony, there is only one way to keep the peace and that is commit even nastier atrocities then the fighting factions. Thus the Nationalists, the Republicans and Guardia Civil share in common terrorizing the citizenry
Sergeant Tejada Alonzo y Leon of the Guardia Civil sees a woman in red standing over the murdered body of his heroic best friend Paco Lopez. He assumes she is a communist killer. He asks no questions as he murders the woman, but quickly realizes his mistake. Driven by guilt he searches for the real culprit. Meanwhile when Gonzalo Llorente learns that a Guardia murdered his beloved Viviana; he vows vengeance
Though a crime story at its heart, DEATH OF A NATIONALIST is much more as Rebecca Pawel showcases the impact on various people from the Spanish Civil War. The story line is graphic as it describes the horrors of war on the armies and the atrocities fostered by both sides on the civilian populace. The lead duo and the support cast seem genuine representing various factions with the key players enabling the audience to see the impact of violence on everyday people as well as on fascist and communist zealots.
Harriet Klausner
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Crime Beat Street Blogger review 23 Nov 2007
By Ana L. Franco - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Having recently read three books that took place in communist countries and described the difficult living conditions in each, I was completely taken aback by life in Post-War Spain, as depicted in the fascinating crime novel Death of a Nationalist set in Madrid circa 1939. Out of all the places I would NOT want to live at any time in history this ranks high up there, the irony being that my grandmother and father grew up in the heart of this trouble. I have always been proud of the fact that I am half-Spanish but now I am truly humbled by that fact, completely respectful of the circumstances that shaped my family's experience there.

This is not your typical crime fiction novel, it is definitely more of an historical mystery; however, the sordid characters throughout and questionable ethics of the two protagonists plant it firmly in the genre for me. The story revolves around two individuals, one a fascist Guardia Civil named Carlos Tejada Alonso y Leon searching for the person who killed his best friend and the other a communist miliciano in hiding, Gonzalo Llorente, searching for the person who murdered his fiancée, Viviana. Viviana was actually killed by Tejada who assumed she murdered his friend when he found her hovering over his body. If he had asked her the right questions before shooting her he would have discovered that she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. So Tejada spends the length of the novel unraveling the identity of his friend's true killer while piecing together the fact that he killed an innocent woman and greatly disturbed the lives of those who loved her. The central plot is a wonderful study of two men who are inadvertently searching for each other, and by political loyalties hate each other, yet ultimately two men who are able to put allegiances aside to atone for their own mistakes.

The book expertly weaves their stories together, alternating chapters to focus on one or the other's viewpoint while simultaneously moving the story forward. Ms. Pawel did a great job in developing these overlapping stories, so good that I finished it in a few sittings. She also uncovers what a nightmare post-war Spanish life was like: hardly anything to eat, the constant scrutiny and suspicion everyone is under, the mere fact that walking down the street is dangerous, and the simple desire most people have to just survive the day or even a few more hours; I was enthralled. I can't wait to read her follow-up novel Law Of Return.
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