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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Out With The Old, In With The New: Spanish Cultural Friction = Murder and Mayhem in Valencia
Jason Webster has his finger on the pulse of Spain in the Post-Franco Era and he's detecting a serious arrythmia. A Death In Valencia is a tightly written mystery that you won't want to put down. But it's more than that. Having lived there for months at a time for the past ten years, I can tell you that Webster has captured the variable natures (both traditional and...
Published on 12 July 2012 by John Barile

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good if you like your crime fiction at the more cerebral end of the spectrum
Life's hard for Inspector Max Camera: his love life's rubbish, there are ominous cracks appearing in his apartment, and now his favourite paella chef has been fished from the sea...

This is written with intelligence and a fine sense of setting but it is quite a slow-paced read, albeit one packed with `issues': the pope's visit renews pro-life vs. abortion...
Published 23 months ago by Roman Clodia


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Out With The Old, In With The New: Spanish Cultural Friction = Murder and Mayhem in Valencia, 12 July 2012
By 
John Barile "The Tampa Bay Downs Handicapper" (Wellington, FL, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Jason Webster has his finger on the pulse of Spain in the Post-Franco Era and he's detecting a serious arrythmia. A Death In Valencia is a tightly written mystery that you won't want to put down. But it's more than that. Having lived there for months at a time for the past ten years, I can tell you that Webster has captured the variable natures (both traditional and progressive)of modern Spanish life and his prose has helped me to get my head around the compelling attraction that beckons me to return again and again. As a retired cop, I can tell you that he's done a good job of capturing all the cock-blocking that goes on within and between the various police departments. Max Cámara is a competent,complicated protagonist, struggling with his own problems, just like the rest of us and you'll be rooting for him throughout. To sustain all the action, there's women, booze and weed, but most of all there's Paella(and there's "No such thing" as a bad paella. ¡Buen provecho!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delving into modern day Spain, 2 Aug 2012
A Death in Valencia is the second in the series of crime novels featuring the ever-melancholy Chief Inspector Max Cámara of Valencia's Policía Nacional. The first novel, Or the Bull Kills You, is also an excellent read, and yet a reader can enjoy A Death in Valencia without having read the first installment, a rare treat. After reading the first book, I was more than ready to see what Max Cámara was up to next.
Crime novels tend to be full of stale concepts and predictable results. Jason Webster has done a tremendous job of creating an original character, with his own strengths and weaknesses, and an ability to place his own personal sense of mistrust into the tasks he performs, in order to see through the many challenges he faces on the streets of Valencia.
Max Cámara is suffering in a number of ways. He is beginning to question his existence - his estrangement with Almudena, and the end of a brief and destructive relationship with Alicia continue to haunt him. When he is faced with investigating the death of paella chef Pep Roures, he finds similarities in the life of the well-respected man and himself. His personal isolation is taking a toll on him, as it did on the life of the man left dumped in the sea. When the investigation is interrupted by the kidnapping of abortionist Sofía Bodí, again he finds his own beliefs affecting the way he feels about the victims and perpetrators of the crimes happening around him. Added the mix is a personal tragedy, a result of negligence and corruption that mar the city he lives in and Cámara finds him more and more following the anti-establishment thoughts of his anarchist grandfather. Throughout the book, small details constantly emerge about Max's personal life, and it gives his personality more depth, without veering off course from the plot. Max is cynical, persistent, pragmatic, intelligent and most of all, likeable.
The magnificent city of Valencia is brilliantly captured throughout the book, from the stifling heat, to the vibrant community spirit of the El Cabanyal, to the gritty reality of the issues facing the city and its inhabitants. The oppressive mayor Emilia, and the crew of vile politicians who surround her are thoroughly described and portrayed, giving an understanding of how it is to live under laws governed by egotism, greed and indulgence. The struggles between the Cuerpo Nacional de Policía and the Guardia Civil are also well written - the difficulties faced by having multiple law enforcers who fail to work together is explained, and yet is not over complicated for readers who do not understand the years of struggles between the groups.
The author manages to weave in so many factors that make up life in Spain today, such as the ghosts of the past that have still not been dealt with, leaving the conflict between the left and right-wing sympathisers as an open wound. The fight for traditional community spirit against the desire for money, prestige and power push back and forth in El Cabanyal. The streets are choked with supporters of the Pope, all there to see him speak in the city while the shameless politicians who break their own laws grease their way into favour on the back of beliefs they do not follow or believe in. The struggles that suffocate Valencia leave Max Cámara not even recognising himself in a world of lies and ignorance.
The book dwells on the life of a paella chef, a great Valencian tradition, and the first book delved in bullfighting and its popularity in the city, two well-known subjects. With this, the potential for cliches to pop up was a possibility for readers who know Valencia well. The author has instead given both subjects a fresh take, leaving conventional notions aside. I look forward to seeing which Valencian subjects are given new life in coming novels from Jason Webster.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but Absorbing Police Procedural in a Spanish Setting, 15 Sep 2012
By 
Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: ADeath in Valencia (Paperback)
A Death in Valencia is a well written police procedural with a number of features which rank it well above the average offering in this genre. Max Camera is an interesting and complex character as the lead detective, and early in the book it is clear that the worrying cracks appearing on the walls in his apartment are mirroring similarly worrying cracks in his rather muddled personal and professional life. The Valencian setting for this story, which is extremely well described by the author, provides both a colourful and distinctive backdrop. The other element which permeates the whole of this tale is the degree of corruption and double dealing in the public life of Valencia and which seems to intrude on all aspects of the work of the police and the local government.

The book starts with the discovery of the floating corpse of a missing and renowned local paella chef, Pepe Roures. Paella is taken very seriously in Valencia so Pepe, who has been vigorously campaigning to save the ancient fishing quarter, El Cabanyal, from the developers is very well known locally. Whilst motives are at first not obvious to Camera, there is a further crime with the kidnapping of a pro abortion clinician shortly before the visit by the pope. Camera begins to see possible connections between these two crimes.

This is the second book featuring Max Camera, but this story can be read on a standalone basis without the reader feeling that they are missing essential background information. The plot is quite complex and interesting and towards the end the pace of the plot speeds up so that this ends up as something of a page turner. Personally I had a certain amount of difficulty keeping up with the individual characters, as they have authentic Spanish names and I had to keep thinking back as to exactly how they fitted in. However, it is difficult to see how this could have been avoided.

So to summarise, this is a relatively short but very absorbing tale which most readers will enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spanish chef murdered, 9 Jun 2012
By 
HJK (Gomersal UK) - See all my reviews
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This is the second novel in the Max Camara series and the first I have read. It might have been better if I had read the first one but it was not a huge hindrance.

Police forces in Spain are rather complicated with National and Local forces having different jurisdictions and responsibilities - this is explained at the front of the book.

Max Camara works for the Policia Nacional which deals with major crimes in larger towns and cities. He is based in Valencia - which is on the coast.

The body of a well-known paella chef is washed up on the beach & there are also rows and treats about abortion clinics & the town hall is set on demolishing a colourful quarter on the sea front & there is to be a visit by the Pope. All these become entangled in the plot.

The author has lived for several years in Valencia.

A very readable novel - detection and investigation - going over the facts and making connections and above all - not too gruesome. I enjoyed reading it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping...., 28 Mar 2013
By 
mandynolan "mandynolan" - See all my reviews
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I like the idea of learning about different cultures through novels and I did that with this...

It was a gripping and interesting tale that also led me through modern day Spain....It shows the tension between Old Spain and New Spain .... and I found the central character engaging and interesting.....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Corruption in Valencia, 1 Mar 2013
By 
Brian R. Martin (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is the second novel to feature the Spanish detective Chief Inspector Max Cámara of Valencia's Policía Nacional. He has an unorthodox approach to his work, is in conflict with his superiors, and has a rather confused personal life, traits he shares with numerous other fictional policeman. Where this story differs from many others is that the author uses his extensive local knowledge to heavily interweave the main crime theme, corruption within the city council, with descriptions of the social and cultural life of Valencia and the wider Spain, including the rivalries between competing law-enforcement organizations and the shadowy world of those wanting to return to the pre-democratic times of Franco. However, this does mean that the plot emerges rather slowly and there is little action until the later stages of the book.

It starts with the discovery on the beach of the corpse of a renowned local paella chef, Pepe Roures. He has been part of the campaign to save the ancient fishing quarter, El Cabanyal, from developers, who with the active support of the council, are steadily demolishing the area. Pepe was very well liked locally and there are no obvious motives for the murder. But when a pro-abortion doctor is kidnapped shortly before a visit by the Pope, Camera begins to see possible connections between these two apparently unrelated events. Eventually, after several false trails, he does of course solve the crimes, but not before several murders are committed. The ending is fast moving and violent, if sometimes rather formulaic.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. The many characters are well described and I found the interplay between the crime investigation and Cámara's personal life believable. The same is true for the descriptions of the local social structure, which although I cannot verify from personal experience, seemed authentic. While not a great crime novel, it is original and well worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So-so as a crime novel but spot on in local detail., 18 Oct 2012
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I came to this like I might approach a racion of paella in an English tapas bar, almost certain it would be good but as good as it could be, rosemary instead of garlic.

As a crime novel, its OK. Camara is no Montalbano but he is convincing enough as a Spanish detective, bad habits and all. The crime and detection part of the novel is convincing.

What makes this stand out is Jason Webster's understanding of Spanish public life, still hamstrung from a hundred years of civil wars and dictatorship, where the media openly takes sides in local and national politics and el enchufe, who you know, still matters more than what you are capable of.

Not bad at all for un escritor ingles.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but...., 17 Oct 2012
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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I found this book surprisingly hard going for much of it's length. It is well written and has a good deal to say about modern Spain and the attitudes and rivalries which compete there, but as a story it took a very long time to get going and by page 100 I thought it was heading for 3 stars at best. In fact it picked up quite well and the second half of the book did draw me in and made it worth reading.

I think my problem with the book is that it is largely about Spanish politics: the struggle between the relatively new democracy there and those who want to return it to a deeply reactionary Franco-style state, the influence of the Church, corruption in the police and government and so on. It's well enough done, but doesn't leave a lot of room for plot and character (although I did find Camara himself to be rather well drawn.) Given what seemed like rather long periods away from the investigation of the crimes I also found that I had forgotten who various witnesses, suspects and so on were by the time they reappeared, which isn't something I usually have a hard time with.

Once things began to move and gel together a little I did enjoy the book (although I could have done without the cliché-ed Cornered Killer Climax) and have given it four stars for that reason and because I liked the writing which is unobtrusive, unpretentious and enjoyable. You need to be prepared for a long slog in the first half of the book, though, so I can only give this a qualified recommendation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Multi-tasking, when there is murder, a kidnaping and the Popes visiting, 17 Sep 2012
By 
Sussman "Sussman" (London CA) - See all my reviews
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Tight plotting, rich atmospherics, and an charmingly flawed lead distinguish Mr Webster's second outing in this contemporary mystery set in Valencia, Spain (after The Bull Kills You).

The over view;

Seven days after popular paella chef Pep Roures disappears, Chief Insp. Max Cámara, helps fish the chef's body out of the water off the port city. The following autopsy reveals that Roures drowned after being stabbed from behind. Roures was generally admired for his gastronomic ability, but he was a vocal adversary of the local government's plan for the so called `revitalization of the area' where his restaurant was located. As Cámara's investigations are just getting underway, he suffers an unsettling personal tragedy that forces him to shift his focus. He soon has a kidnapping to factor in as well as security safeguards for the imminent visit of the pope. Hence there is an undercurrent of downheartedness, as Cámara finds himself in conflict with the powers-that-be.

First impressions

At just over 200 pages, this novel is not overly long, that said you might finding yourself having to backtrack several times to understand the latest "newest twist" in the narrative. I found I got a very good sense of Valencia; Spain in the reading of this book but I found that I was reminded of Andrea Camilleri's Italy and his Inspector Montalbano. While Max Camara Montalbano is a darker and more "political" character, the similarity, here was his impatience with the bureaucracy and impudent attitude was the same as Montalbano's. Both Montalbano & Camara share the same disposition for gastronomic delights, wine and women.
In conclusion then, one gets a very good story full of twists and turns, there are likeable and unlikeable characters, and a good sense of contemporary Spanish life. An enjoyable read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Viva Valencia, 13 Sep 2012
By 
lovemurakami "tooty2" (uk) - See all my reviews
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Max Camara is back in this second outing for the Valencian Chief Inspector, and even though this is the follow up novel to Or the Bull Kills You, as a reader you don't need to read the first to enjoy this. Camara is a complicated detective (which is always a good thing for the crime enthusiast), his love life is complicated as are his relationships in general. He finds himself caught up into an investigation of a body found floating out at sea. As if this isn't enough Camara receives a call which will change his life for the short term and may be connected to political corruption within Valencia.

Jason Webster writes about Valencia really well, he conjures up the area and its' people really well and the fictional characters which populate the novel are totally believable and engaging. You find yourself immersed within the story and drawn along with the quick and clever plotting. An excellent read and well worth giving it a go.
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