Fiction Robert Wilson A Small Death in Lisbon

ISBN 13: 9780151006090

A Small Death in Lisbon

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9780151006090: A Small Death in Lisbon

1941. Klaus Felsen, forced out of his Berlin factory into the SS, arrives in a luminous Lisbon, where Nazis and Allies, refugees and entrepreneurs, dance to the strains of opportunism and despair. Felsen's assignment takes him to the bleak mountains of the north where a devious and brutal battle is being fought for an element vital to Hitler's bliztkrieg. There he meets the man who plants the first seed of greed and revenge that will grow into a thick vine in the landscape of post-war Portugal. Late 1990s. Investigating the murder of a young girl with a disturbing sexual past, Inspector Ze Coelho overturns the dark soil of history and unearths old bones from Portugal's fascist past. This small death in Lisbon is horrific compensation for an even older crime, and Coelho's stubborn pursuit of its truth reveals a tragedy that unites past and present. Robert Wilson's combination of intelligence, suspense, vivid characters, and mesmerizing storytelling richly deserves the international acclaim his novel has received.

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Review:

Penzler Pick, August 2000: Winner of the prestigious Gold Dagger Award in the U.K. for the best mystery of 1999, this complex literary thriller may be one of the most satisfying suspense novels to come along in some time. Robert Wilson has written several political thrillers, most of which are set in West Africa, but they are, alas, largely unavailable in the U.S.

In A Small Death in Lisbon, the narrative switches back and forth between 1941 and 1999, and Wilson's wide knowledge of history and keen sense of place make the eras equally vibrant. In 1941 Germany, Klaus Felsen, an industrialist, is approached by the SS high command in a none-too-friendly manner and is "persuaded" to go to Lisbon and oversee the sale--or smuggling--of wolfram (also known as tungsten, used in the manufacture of tanks and airplanes). World War II Portugal is neutral where business is concerned, and too much of the precious metal is being sold to Britain when Germany needs it to insure that Hitler's blitzkrieg is successful.

Cut to 1999 Lisbon, where the daughter of a prominent lawyer has been found dead on a beach. Ze Coehlo, a liberal police inspector who is a widower with a daughter of his own, must sift through the life of Catarina Oliviera and discover why she was so brutally murdered. Her father is enigmatic, her mother suicidal; her friends were rock musicians and drug addicts.

The reader is treated to a wonderful portrait of Lisbon in the aftermath of the 1974 revolution that ousted Salazar from power, and the scars from that conflict are still close to the surface for the citizens of Lisbon, including Coehlo and his colleagues. We also see World War II in a slightly different manner from that to which we are accustomed--through the eyes of the Germans and the Portuguese. The pace of the book is leisurely but compelling as the events of 1941 and those in 1999 merge in an extraordinary climax. --Otto Penzler

About the Author:

ROBERT WILSON is the author of numerous novels, including The Company of Strangers and A Small Death in Lisbon, which won the Gold Dagger Award as Best Crime Novel of the Year from Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association. A graduate of Oxford University, he has worked in shipping, advertising, and trading in Africa, and has lived in Greece, Portugal, and West Africa.

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