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LAW OF RETURN (Carlos Tejada Alonso y Leon Investigation Set in Spain) Paperback – 1 Mar 2005

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: SOHO PRESS; New edition edition (1 Mar. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569473803
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569473801
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.8 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 781,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A. Ross TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 15 July 2004
Format: Hardcover
This second book in Pawel's series relocates newly promoted Gaurdia Civil officer Carlos Tejada from Madrid to the northern university city of Salamanca in 1940. As Hitler's armies cruise through Europe in the background, things are quieter in Spain following the end of the Spanish Civil War. Although Salamanca wasn't a hotbed of insurgency, there are still ex-Reds and other troublemakers to monitor. One of Tejada's new duties meeting with everyone on a list of questionable people, required to check in with the Guardia on a weekly basis. Coincidentally, one of these is the father of Elena, the Socialist woman Tejada encountered in "Death of a Nationalist." An eminent classicist, he had signed a protest against the firing of a former university rector who had spoken out against Franco. As it so happens, one of his other co-signatories disappears in the first week of Tejada's new assignment. As Tejada painstakingly hunts for clues to the man's disappearance, which may have coincided with the moving of a lot of cash from his estate, the classics professor and his family are faced with a request for succor from a Jewish colleague fleeing Germany.
The proceedings are rather more conventional than the previous book, and the novelty of having a right-wing protagonist has worn off (in interviews Pawel has been careful to call him an anti-hero). Throughout his investigation, Tejada must tread cautiously due to a choleric superior and the influence of Slamancan grandees who are related to the missing man. Elena and her family must tread carefully due to both the precariousness of their situation (limited food rations and income) and the illegality of aiding someone trying to escape the Germans.
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Format: Paperback
I agree with the previous reviewer that this book is not as gripping as the first book in the series. However, it is gripping enough to make you read it from cover to cover with no sense of the rhythm in the story dragging, or the characters contradicting themselves. In spite of the doubts that have been spread about the questionable heroism of an agent of the "Guardia Civil" (as the hero of these novels, because I think he is a hero and not an anti-hero), things like that really happened. We know now of more examples of people who worked for the fascist government of Franco who risked many things (including their lives) to help others. Granted, they were few, but they shine from the depths of the post-war brutality like jewels of humanity. One example from real life is Ángel Sanz-Briz, a diplomat working for Franco's government in Hungary, who risked his life during World War II to save thousands of Jewish people. So, I like this exploration of how the ideas of someone who bought into the fascist ideology begin to change when facing situations in everyday life, in the desperate context of post-war misery. In the case of this second novel in the series, these situations revolve around the hardships that left-wing and liberal intellectuals had to face, the indignities, constant anxieties, constant danger of being arrested and summarily executed. We learn about it against the background of Salamanca, University town, where professors are in constant fear (and real danger) of suffering retaliation for having supported the republican cause. Here we find again Elena, and she finds fresh trouble as her father (universtiy professor forced to retire by Franco) tries to help a Jewish colleague fleeing from Germany.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful story 24 Oct. 2014
By Srdjan Pesic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rebecca Pawel returns to the war torn 1940's Spain. As in the first novel her forte is the magnificent sense of atmosphere. Fascists against the "Red" supporters ( that is basically everybody who isn't fascist). War is slowly spreading in the rest of Europe and in the midst of this nightmare, people trapped without any hope. Ms. Pawel, of course wrote a mystery novel, and she manages to effortlessly solve this convoluted puzzle, without compromising any of the high standards. Talented writer, powerful story.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Historic Novel & Mystery - Definitely 5 Stars!! 2 July 2005
By Jana L.Perskie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Carlos Tejada Alonso y Léon, who was introduced to readers in Rebecca Pawel's Edgar Award-winning novel "Death of A Nationalist," has recently been promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the Guardia Civil and transferred from Madrid to Salamanca, a city famous for its university. Tejada studied law here before joining the Guardia during the Civil War. He is just past thirty years-old - certainly very young to be a lieutenant. However, Tejada's entire profile is unusual for a National Guardsman. He is the second son of a wealthy landowner, a conservative, and a staunch Nationalist. A Falangist, he backed Franco from the beginning. Now he enforces the laws and policies of the Generalissimo's authoritarian government, and searches for "enemies of the state," usually Republicans, who are jailed, sometimes tortured, and frequently killed. Tejada is basically a decent man, a hero of the siege of Toledo - and while I am certainly not an apologist for Fascism, (on the contrary), there must have been some good people who fought and believed in the Nationalist cause, even if they were on the wrong side of history.

I wrote in my review of "Death of a Nationalist," that author Rebecca C. Pawel presents the reader with a very interesting dilemma. How does one empathize with a protagonist who is a member of the Fascist cause, one of the victors in Spain's bitter, bloody Civil War? How does one embrace, in a literary fashion, someone who works to enforce Fascist policies? This continues to be an issue in "Law of Return," although personally, I resolved my problems with Tejada in the last book. I find too many admirable qualities in him to pass over because of his politics - which I am definitely not in agreement with. I accept him for the man he is, and for the man he has the potential to become.

It is 1940, and although the Civil War has been over for a year, fear, paranoia, hunger and shortages are everywhere. One of Tejada's new responsibilities in Salamanca is overseeing local parolees who must report to him weekly. There are approximately seventy-five, and many are considered troublemakers because of their Socialist leanings and/or former affiliations. Of particular interest are a group of four, all former university professors called "the petitioners."

These men are labeled "petitioners" because of a historical incident which occurred on October 12, 1936, at a public ceremony at the University of Salamanca commemorating Dia de la Raza. Keynote speaker, Falangist General Millan de Astray finished his address with the slogan, "Viva la Muerte!" ("Long Live Death!"). Miguel de Unamuno, a great Spanish author, educator, humanist and philosopher, was standing next to the general on the platform. He said, "Vencera pero no convencera."). ("You will win but you will not convince"). Enraged, Millan had to be physically restrained from striking Unamuno, who was immediately removed from his position at the university and placed under house arrest. He died two months later. Ironically, Unamuno was a devout Catholic and accepted by the Falangists. He had misinterpreted Franco's cause, however, thinking it represented nationalism. Manuel Arroyo, Guillermo Fernandez , Tomas Rivera, and Arturo Velasquez are fictional characters who, as professors, circulated and signed a petition protesting the treatment of their colleague.

There are times when I so dislike our protagonist, even though I understand his reasoning. This is due to the author's extraordinary talent in developing complex, true-to-life characters. She is also on-target when portraying the political conflict of the period. Tejada, when interviewing Dr. Rivera, thinks, "You were a damn fool to meddle in what didn't concern you." (Because Rivera signed the petition knowing there would probably be retribution). Yet one knows, from reading about him, that Tejada would never just obey orders or keep silent when faced with what he believed to be injustice. Carlos Tejado is an anti-hero, struggling with his personal political beliefs, his firmly entrenched dedication to justice and the law, and the grim post-war situation he finds himself in. He begins to understand that in the tonal scale of life, the differences between right and wrong are more subtle and variegated than black and white.

When one of the petitioners disappears, Tejado's investigation takes him to the seaside resort of San Sebastian, and then on to Nazi occupied France. On this trip he comes into contact, once again, with the lovely schoolteacher he met in Madrid, Elena Fernandez. She had been dismissed from her job because of her leftist politics, and returned home to Salamanca to be with her parents. However, this is not Tejada's first post-Madrid encounter with Elena. Her father is Guillermo Fernandez, a distinguished Classics professor. He is also one of the "petitioners" and a parolee. When Elena accompanied him to one of the weekly meetings, she and Tejada saw each other. The growing relationship between these two greatly enriches the narrative. Their mutual attraction, affection and respect, along with their opposing political viewpoints, makes for a good match and an interesting read. Both Elena and Carlos are extremely bright and literate people which provides a strong base of commonality. It helps that she is clever at figuring out mysteries too.

There is an important and moving side story here. Professor Joseph Meyer, a German-Jewish friend and colleague of Professor Fernandez, writes begging for help to cross into Spain from France before he is forcibly repatriated to Germany and sent to a concentration camp. The Fernandez family's humanity, as individuals and as a unit, is emphasized here considering the risk they are willing to take for an outsider.

"Law of Return" is just plain fascinating. Its originality is refreshing and the taut, well written prose is far different from what is found in many formulaic crime novels on today's market. This is much more than a mystery, however. It is historical fiction at its best. Ms. Pawel paints a vivid portrait of post-war Spain, whose people are trying to come to grips with past horrors and return to some semblance of normalcy. The author's descriptions of the humiliation, defeat and isolation of those who did not support Franco's cause is palpable.

I highly recommend "Law of Return," and suggest reading "Death of a Nationalist" first for maximum enjoyment. Both books stand on their own, however, without any prequel. I am about to begin the third novel in the series, "The Watcher In The Pine," and can't wait to get started.
JANA
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So-So Sophmore Effort 28 July 2004
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This second book in Pawel's series relocates newly promoted Gaurdia Civil officer Carlos Tejada from Madrid to the northern university city of Salamanca in 1940. As Hitler's armies cruise through Europe in the background, things are quieter in Spain following the end of the Spanish Civil War. Although Salamanca wasn't a hotbed of insurgency, there are still ex-Reds and other troublemakers to monitor. One of Tejada's new duties meeting with everyone on a list of questionable people, required to check in with the Guardia on a weekly basis. Coincidentally, one of these is the father of Elena, the Socialist woman Tejada encountered in "Death of a Nationalist." An eminent classicist, he had signed a protest against the firing of a former university rector who had spoken out against Franco. As it so happens, one of his other co-signatories disappears in the first week of Tejada's new assignment. As Tejada painstakingly hunts for clues to the man's disappearance, which may have coincided with the moving of a lot of cash from his estate, the classics professor and his family are faced with a request for succor from a Jewish colleague fleeing Germany.

The proceedings are rather more conventional than the previous book, and the novelty of having a right-wing protagonist has worn off (in interviews Pawel has been careful to call him an anti-hero). Throughout his investigation, Tejada must tread cautiously due to a choleric superior and the influence of Slamancan grandees who are related to the missing man. Elena and her family must tread carefully due to both the precariousness of their situation (limited food rations and income) and the illegality of aiding someone trying to escape the Germans. These two threads gradually bring Tejada and Elena closer together, despite their being on opposite sides of the political spectrum. While the story is rich in period detail and atmosphere, neither plotline is particularly compelling (although a cross-border foray to Biarritz in occupied France adds some much needed spice). It's not a bad read, just not a gripping one, and nowhere near the quality of Death of a Nationalist.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An imperfect but appealingly human hero 2 May 2008
By Philippa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Pawel's second novel about post-civil war Spain is, in my view, as good as the first, which was excellent. It's a good story with appealing characters and a fresh setting. One of the things I like best, though, is that her hero isn't really heroic, nor is he simply a charming rogue. He's a decent man who isn't always decent, and that's a kind of complexity that many mystery writers seem to avoid. Pawel handles it well, though, and gives us a better novel than the average we're offered.
4.0 out of 5 stars ok book 13 May 2012
By VICKY - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
as our hero evisits the old homestead in Spain, he complains about his parent's treatment of his wife...who cares anymore? He is intent on solving a murder of a relative...whose death was...wait////possibly political? Rebecca P is a great writer but the characters are not well drawn. Does the reader have to dislike the family completely? A small token of affection by the father is granted at the end. The murder..well you'll have to wonder? Was it the Communists? Do they really matter?
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