The book: Fall of a Sparrow, by Sam Benady and Mary Chiappe
The edition: HKB Press paperback, 285 pages, with an hilarious cast of characters
The story: at the beginning of the Great Siege, Giovanni Bresciano is the second of only two Gibraltarian to join the army to defend their country. On his second day in the army, his first friend among soldiers falls from a precipice. Is it an accident, or is it something sinister? Is there a murderer or a spy on the loose? As the siege goes on and the city suffers from hunger and smallpox, Bresciano tries to uncover the truth.
My experience with the book & my thoughts: I was suspicious of this book, because I had read another one by Sam Benady (see below) and it had failed to impress me. But I was wrong. It may be little known, but this book is as good a crime novel as you can get. Not only it has an extremely well-developed and puzzling plot, it also has well-rounded characters (down to Bresciano’s own teenager weaknesses, which I didn’t have patience for but still rang very true). And it pairs it all off with an accurate period setting and plenty of very well-written descriptions.
Language & writing: the authors are quite good at rendering the multilingualism of the place. Also, it’s too bad that I didn’t take notes while reading, because this book is full of good words; I don’t know for sure, but some of them may be Gibraltar-speech too — one is for sure:
Monday morning brought with it a damp easterly wind that rapidly swathed the Rock in a heavy levanter cloud.
(The levanter cloud is a weather effect happening in Gibraltar, as explained here. Below is a picture of it.)
Links to better understand this book:
- the Great Siege of Gibraltar, as detailed by Wikipedia
Read this if: if you like period detective stories
Counts as: Travel with books project – Gibraltar; Bloggiesta, my goals; Bloggiesta, Jessica’s mini challenge
I’ll add here my very short thoughts about two more Gibraltar-related (and one non-related) books I read recently, I really don’t have enough to say about them to justify a separate post, sorry.
Sherlock Holmes in Gibraltar by Sam Benady, published by Gibraltar Books, 48 pages
This is one of those books written only to make use of a given setting. It includes two novellas featuring, guess that, Sherlock Holmes in Gibraltar. I am not an expert, but this Holmes was in no way similar to the original character, and the book was nothing comparable to Conan Doyle’s works. It features a nice line drawing, though.
Gil Braltar, by Jules Verne, as published online here
This short novella is intended as a satire against the British, but I only found it cruel and unnecessarily so.
In Honor to Cain, by Francesca Raffaella Guerra, as published by Ubi Minor, 134 pages
This one has nothing to do with Gibraltar and I only mention it here because, like the Sherlock Holmes’ one, it’s only excuse for existing is that it is set in a particular town (namely, in my home region). I’m sorry but I can say absolutely nothing good about this one, so I won’t.