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Or the Bull Kills You: (Max Cámara 1) [Paperback]

Jason Webster
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Feb 2011 Max Cámara (Book 1)

Either you kill the bull, or the bull kills you - traditional proverb.

Chief Inspector Max Cámara hates bullfighting, but one hot afternoon in Valencia he has to judge a festival corrida starring Spain's most famous young matador. That night he is back in the ring, and what he finds on the bloodstained sand shocks the city of Valencia to its core. As Cámara hunts his prey through the streets and bars, firecrackers echo for the festival of Fallas, and the town hall election. The anti-bullfighting campaigners and the breeders of prize beasts fight to the death. The bullring is a test of virility, but should it be a site of national pride or shame?

Or the Bull Kills You has a brilliantly authentic setting and a great detective, with a love of flamenco and brandy. This is the first of a series of books starring the quirky and forceful Cámara - a man clearly destined to make his mark.

Frequently Bought Together

Or the Bull Kills You: (Max Cámara 1) + A Death in Valencia: (Max Cámara 2) + The Anarchist Detective: (Max Cámara 3)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (3 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701185090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701185091
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 551,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jason Webster is a highly acclaimed Anglo-American author and authority on Spain whose work ranges from biography to travel, crime fiction and history.

His books have sold in over a dozen countries, including the US, the UK, Germany, Japan and China, and have been nominated both for the Guardian First Book Award and the Crime Writers' Association New Blood Dagger Award. He has been favourably compared with writers such as Bruce Chatwin (The Daily Mail), Gerald Brenan (El País) and Ernest Hemingway (Sunday Telegraph).

Webster has written extensively for newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Independent, Sunday Times, The Observer, Conde Nast Traveller and The New Statesman and has presented and appeared in several television and radio documentaries on Spain.

Webster was born near San Francisco and brought up in the UK, Germany and Italy. After finishing a degree in Arabic and Islamic History at the University of Oxford, he worked as an editor at the BBC World Service for several years before becoming a full-time writer and moving to Spain. He is married to the flamenco dancer Salud and they have two sons. They currently divide their time between Valencia and the UK.

Product Description


"Sexual politics, male identity, clan loyalties, and the experience and lore of bullfighting: the novel is full of interesting material" (TLS)

"An American author, brought up in England, writes about bullfighting in Spain. Festive Valencia is his chosen city and the murder of a charismatic matador the centre of the plot. Jason Webster is pretty ambiguous about the morals of the fight, but knows his stuff" (Country Life)

"One of the most attractive figures to enter recent detective fiction ... Like the best detective stories, this book becomes a scrutiny of our most powerful drives and secrets" (The Independent)

"The first in a projected series, which is very good news indeed ... nifty plotting, great descriptions and the most enchanting new detective I've come across in a good while." (The Guardian)

"Webster has completely nailed Chief Inspector Max Camara, while vividly bringing to life Valencia." (Daily Mirror)

Book Description

Gripping, hot-blooded detective fiction with authentic Spanish setting - first in a series.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Room for improvement ... 14 Mar 2011
By Douglas
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jason Webster has written some fine, quasi-travel books about Spain - 'Duende', 'Andalus' and 'Guerra'. These are books, which as someone who lives in Spain, I've often recommended to English speakers who want to learn more about Spanish society beyond what the Lonely Planet Guide offers. This is Webster's first novel, although some have suggested that his non-fiction books are sometimes overly embellished by his clearly fertile imagination. Set in Valencia, 'Or The Bulls Kills You' adds to the ever growing number of crime novels coming out of Europe these days. The difference this time is that the author writes in his adopted city of Valencia, in contrast to those who centre their books in their own cities, such as Henning Mankell in Ystad, Jo Nesbø in Oslo, Manuel Montalbán Vázquez in Barcelona and Ian Rankin in Edinburgh. Webster has come up with an intriguing detective Max Cámara and the story is set against bullfighting and the Fallas celebrations in Valencia. As an introduction to what is apparently going to be a series of novels featuring the detective Max Cámara, the plot unfolds in a fairly erratic fashion - at one crucial point a significant event is inexcusably ignored until the very end of the book - and the storyline is frequently broken by unnecessary background detail about Valencia and the organisational structure of the Spanish police. Hopefully, future plots will be more tightly composed and Webster will cut back on his deeply irritating use of Spanish in the text - sometimes translated and sometimes not - which simply detracts from the flow and impact of the narrative. Better editing would improve the book immensely and also get rid of a number of typos.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Parallel Mysteries 4 Mar 2011
By Ita
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
`Or the Bull Kills You' is a vivid, masculine, energising book by a writer unafraid to confront the reality of violent death.

As in any good murder mystery, the identity and motives of the killer (or is it killers?) remain concealed until the end. Chief Inspector Max Camara of the Valencia Cuerpo Nacional de Policia resists the temptation and pressures on him to indict the most obvious suspect. Instead, using the tactics of the bullfight, he gets to know each of the suspects, observes the weaknesses of each, assesses their capacity to torture and kill and predicts their responses before moving in for the final confrontation.

To really appreciate this book you have, like a matador, to be in control and refuse to rush. Then you realise that Camara is not only a detective: he is also a mystery. In parallel with the revelation of the hidden lives of the suspects is the revelation of a side of the detective he has previously refused to acknowledge. Who among us really likes to admit he, or she, is driven by animal instincts? By identifying with the bull, Camara acknowledges he has within him both bull and bullfighter. Using the art of the matador to control the bull within, rather than denying its existence, he learns to benefit from, rather than be at the mercy of, animal vitality.

I suspect this is a book which will be read mostly by men, but for me it was engrossing and I hope that it will find many more readers among women.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite hit the mark 24 Feb 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
I am a fan of Jason Webster so couldn't wait to get my hands on this.

The character Max Camara is pretty well built up and has posibilities, but for now he is a bit too predictable.

The plot is fine enough but the book suffers from a lack of atmosphere (those who have read "Shadow of the Wind" or "Winter in Madrid" will know what I mean). I have been to Valancia City and the narrative didn't evoke anything much for me. The descriptions of the city were a bit flat and there were some parts of the plot where I felt lacked credibility (Max had a night of passion with a lady friend and got accidently separated the next day in a crowd, but they both did not contact each other for two months).

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was that there didn't seem to be any twists and turns that are the hallmark of a good yarn. I also found some of the speach a bit American, such as quite a lot of use of "kind of" which is not really Spanish.

So, a bit disappointed but I don't want to write it off.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing. 5 April 2012
I bought this book with high hopes. I'd read a couple of the author's factual books (Duende and Guerra) and found them and therefore Jason Webster to be a compelling and enjoyable read.

However, I found "Or the Bull Kills You" to be frankly boring. I really wanted to like this book, I read it through to the end hoping it would get better, it never did. The structure and plot were weak and I found the prose turgid, uninspiring, and, in parts, unbelieveable (very different from Webster's excellent writing in the aforementioned books). The content should have been a writer's dream: Valencia during Las Fallas (a celebratory religious festival) and bullfighting but even with that background it lacked guts and a strong storyline.

On a couple of positive notes: I learned a lot about bullfighting and the place it has in Spanish people's consciousness; and, I hope to get a couple of quid for my copy on Amazon Marketplace.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Excelente Novela policíaca, Valencia en Fallas y Toros.
Además de ser una novela policíaca, describe con toda perfección el carácter de los Valencianos y la Fiesta Fallera y la ciudad de valencia, de manera... Read more
Published 1 month ago by gisela bravo
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit hit and miss
There is an incident near the start of the story which the main character basically ignores. I failed to suspend disbelief and this irked me the whole way through the book. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Beam Me Up Scottie
4.0 out of 5 stars Bullfight mayhem
Set in Valencia, the first book in this series is closely linked to bullfighting. The detective is not a fan, so that gives the author plenty of scope for explaining some of the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by allenr
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and gripping story line
Well written and gripping story line. Would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys crime thrillers/detective novels. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Debs
1.0 out of 5 stars A Euro Dreadful
Dreadful, absolutely dreadful. Full of ludicrous inaccuracies and one-dimensional caricatures for characters, which as a Spanish resident I found totally unacceptable. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Rottweiler
5.0 out of 5 stars WHew...wonderful
Wonderful setting and evocation of Valencia, an intriguing story line, very true to life characters and an enjoyably realistic, flawed, honest (when it suits him) hero make for a... Read more
Published 6 months ago by A. I. Rabinowitz
3.0 out of 5 stars Spanish passions?
Took time to get into this. Chase scene at end too long. Glad I persevered to the end, but upset at girlfriend's abortion. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Rev Margaret Hay
5.0 out of 5 stars nice one , Jason
I've never been to Valencia, but now I want to go there. When I do, though, it won't be during Fallas.
Published 11 months ago by G. Abernethy
5.0 out of 5 stars Different Tack
This author has in the past written a number of books on his life in Spain, this book is a departure and is a mystery novel, well written. Read more
Published 12 months ago by maree vanderlaan
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Good insight into bull fighting and will recommend to pal who has family in Valencia. Love the quotations at the beginning of each chapter.
Published 12 months ago by eleanor
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