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Or the Bull Kills You: (Max Cámara 1) Paperback – 3 Feb 2011

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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: 15.2 x 2.2 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 716,245 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

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ita on 4 Mar. 2011
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 By Ivor Gudbuk on 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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Douglas on 14 Mar. 2011
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Diacha on 30 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
Jason Webster's "Or The Bull Kills You" is a promising start to a prospective series but as an individual book does not quite live up to its promise.

"Or the Bull Kills You" is set in contemporary Valencia in the milieu of the bullfight and the antis campaign. The story follows the structure of the bullfight and Webster provides considerable and interesting background on the sport and its roots in Mediterranean culture, including ruminations on its sexual symbolism. Further local colour is added through the backdrop of the Fallas carnival and municipal elections in which the banning of the sport is - at least superficially - a campaign issue cynically selected to attract the youth vote.

Jorge Blanco, a star matador is murdered in a brutal parody of his art. Other deaths follow. Chief Inspector Max Camara and his sharp-tongued sidekick, Torres, set on the trail. There are whiffs of conspiracy, cover-up, warnings-off and pressure for a quick resolution.

Webster, who has lived in Spain for almost two decades and is married to a prominent flamenco artiste, is the author of several travel books about his adopted country. He is thus well positioned to create an authentic Hispanic ambience for his fiction. However, here the local detail seems labored - there is a lot of it, but we never quite smell the arena, breathe the dry warmth of the climate or enter into the atmosphere of the cafes and fiesta. The plot too lacks momentum and its denouement is unsatisfying. As the central hero, Camara is likeable but he never quite rises above the stereotype of the fictional detective - he is constructed from all the usual baggage of middle-aged crisis, difficulties with authority, struggles with alcohol and tobacco, disastrous personal life and an unwavering commitment to unearthing the truth.

It is possible that if Webster continues into a series he will find his rhythm, but this book is a near miss.
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