An Olympic Death (Five Star Paperback) Paperback – 13 Nov 2004
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?A lament for a fading Barcelona? a story as rich and pungent in the manchego cheese in La Boqueria? Jack ?Carvalho?s sharp observations and dry sense of humour bring this novel, and the unique city of Barcelona, to life. Readers will be left hungry by Montalban?s mouth-watering descriptions of Catalan cuisine? Ink ?This book draws you in with lively descriptions of detailed landscapes, smells and sounds that hark back to Hemingway? Daily Post ?Montalb?n does for Barcelona what Chandler did for Los Angeles ? he exposes the criminal power relationships beneath the facade of democracy? Guardian
Montalb?n has a sharp wit and a knowing eye? Sunday Times ?He is the modern committed writer, entertaining his readers as he reveals what lies beneath Barcelona?s glittering carpet? Guardian 'Montalb?n is a writer who is caustic about the powerful and tender towards the oppressed (Times Literary Supplement ?An inventive and sexy writer... warmly recommended? Irish Independent)
About the Author
Manuel Vázquez Montalbán was born in Barcelona in 1939. He was a journalist, novelist and creator of Pepe Carvalho, a fast-living, gourmet private detective. Montalbán won both the Raymond Chandler Prize and the French Grand Prix of Detective Fiction for his thrillers, which are translated into all major languages. He died in October 2003.
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Top Customer Reviews
For a crime novel it boasts a highly intellectual style and Carvalho has a cultured , political, literate, gourmand outlook. Indeed at times it reads more like a cookery book. Unfortunately the 'intellectual' can sometimes appear pretentious as follows, '...he was not so much ugly as counterposing a restlessness to the image of placidity which she radiated'. Maybe this is just a translation issue?
It is all an acquired taste. A mixture of literary essay, cook-book, Barcelona tour-guide with no suspense, drama or mystery. Montalban displays his politics with stuff like, 'Ever since the Soviet Union went down, morality has come back into fashion' and 'When I hear the word philosophy, I reach for my gun'. These outbursts together with a recurring obsession with burning books simply do not tally with the rather aloof and effete Carvalho.
It is one of those novels where the author and his style overwhelm the story. If you like the 'style' there is plenty of Pepe to read but for me it was too much.
Cocaine deals, heroin overdoses -- they're all in a good cause, as Barcelona detective Pepe Carvalho discovers as he juggles two women and two cases. It's a few months before the Olympics start in his home town and everyone is gearing up for them. Capitalism is triumphant, Communism a fond memory.
An Olympic aerialist has tumbled to earth; he hauls his wheelchaired body around the gym his lover now bosses. She has left her husband, the publishing magnate Brando. Beba, the young Brando girl, gives her father nightmares. While he sleeps she is cruising the mean streets where the pushers live, going God knows where, returning only to present him at breakfast with a series of overnight lovers his own age. Carvalho's job is to find out what she's doing and stop her. Brando fils doubles his father's fee. That's the simple case.
Carvalho assigns his assistant Biscuter, a dwarfish Archie/Bunter, to trail Beba. Meanwhile he leads the beautiful Claire and her companion Lebrun in search of the Greek husband who left her in Paris. He taps an old comrade, turned Olympic official, for information. A painter friend gives them entrée into the maze of midnight streets and fashionable dissolution. Artists and models guide them to a warehouse mausoleum of abandoned industrialism. Another Greek, the young Dimitrios, is to be found at the same time.
For its thorough exploration of the netherworld of sunny Barcelona, for its strange humor and pungent characterizations, for the way the detective finally shows he lives by a code and not by whim or a desire to settle old scores, this novel -- and the rest of the Pepe Carvalho series -- become highly recommended. Stack alongside your classics from around the world.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Unlike some of his previous books, this book does not pound home the author's political views, which might be good in some ways but just leaves us with an aging sensualist protagonist longing to be young and virile again. Pepe is exposed as selfish, self indulgent, self centered, self everything--though that may not be the author's intention.
I must say that Montalban has a way of making even the weak plots in this book somewhat interesting, and so the book was not a total loss. The parts about Pepe's love of gourmet food are always tactilely satisfying also. However, I cannot recommend this book because it is really just about a lot of immoral people doing their thing.
For more mystery series that may entertain you, check out my website describing and reviewing many series (see my Amazon profile for the URL).
The novel's opening scene could have been taken straight from a Peter Sellers movie. Claire Delmas, a eye-boggling French beauty, and her friend the Olympic agent Georges Lebrun, pay a visit to Pepe Carvalho, Barcelona's aging private-eye, gastronome extraordinaire, and repentent Communist. Carvalho (pronounced "car-valyu") is truly an unorthodox figure among private-eyes. Immediately, it is evident that he is much more of a psychiatrist than a private-eye, braving the dangers of his clients' conversation instead of the world of crime. Claire and Lebrun are looking for Alekos, Claire's renegade Greek husband turned homosexual. Their search for him -- chaperoned by Carvalho -- leads them through a motley of comic scenes in Barcelona.
Perhaps uniquely among detective novels, Carvalho is simultaneously at work on a curious, entirely unrelated second "case". Luis Brando, a wealthy publisher (no relation to Marlon), engages him to keep an eye on Beba, his nymphomaniac teenage daughter. Beba is a lusty lass with a penchant for screwing old men. Carried out alongside the search for Alekos, Beba's case leads Carvalho through a riotous labyrinth of crazy characters and a hilarious tour of Barcelona by night.
While I enjoyed the novel immensely and I understand it's largely a satire on "cultural hooliganism" (Carvalho's phrase), I have to admit that there are some trashy scenes. Montalbán could have excluded them and not damaged his story. I'm not a prude, but from time to time he overkilled the sex and profanity. So much so that to be frank, I was ready for the novel to end.
Nevertheless, the book was a fantastic read and I'm eager to find more Montalbán. 5 stars.
This is a very existentialist, absurdist (where's Edward Albee when you need him) metaphysical journey of a man whose life is becoming redundant, even to him. Carvalho spends way to much time trying to live in his past and finds that much of what he remembers is now changed to fit what he wants to remember as opposed to what actually happened. There is a touch of the Alain Robbe-Grillet, 'nouveau roman' to the whole book that goes along well with the allusions from Barrie' 'Peter Pan'.
This seems to me to be the 'swan song' for Carvalho as the 'devil may care' communist/collaborator/detective, and the maturing of his personality to fit the changes in Spain with the passing of Franco and its' entry into the European Community. Depending on how you read it, it's either a very good book, or just a jumble of attitudes, happenings and words. Your call.