Books: Gibraltar reading and more


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.)

Image credits: Wikipedia

Links to better understand this book:

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.

10 comments on “Books: Gibraltar reading and more

  1. Thanks for your positive review of ‘Sparrow’. We are still multilingual here but sadly the old Genoese dialect – ‘zeneise’ – has all but died out. We use one or two such words in our books – I hope we got them right! We have written 3 others about Bresciano and are working on a 5th. Sorry you didn’t like “Sherlock Holmes in Gibraltar”. It was written over 20 years ago. Perhaps I have learned something since then!
    Sam Benady

  2. Thank you for your comment! I have heard about the other Bresciano books and actually cannot wait to read them, it’s just that they’re hard to find (and I was working up the courage to write to you or Ms. Chiappe directly). As for Sherlock Holmes, maybe it’s just so very difficult to pin down a character written by another author and have it work in such a way as to make all the readers happy: after all, we all read different things for any given book, and that’s the best thing about reading!

  3. Hi! [snip] is her address. She is in a position to send books more cheaply than I can. How did you get the one you have read?

  4. Thank you. (I removed the address from your comment to avoid spam.) I will surely contact her in the new year.
    I was lucky to visit Gibraltar in early 2012, and asked a bookshop there for recommendations. The lady sang high praises of the whole Bresciano series, but this was the only one she had at the moment.

  5. Hello! If you are interested in novels about Gibraltar and Morocco and can read Italian, please check out my award-winning IL CALIFFO DI QASBAT-AL-NOOR published by Homo Scrivens. I am an Italian writer resident in Gib since 1997 and I know Mary and Sam of Fall of a Sparrow personally, they are a heck of a lovely pair, and I wrote reviews of their books including the sombre Mosaic of Unquiet Times written by Mary ‘solo’. Set in a fictional archipelago, it is a raw portrait of after-war Gibraltar through the lives of two siblings brewing a storm under a glassy surface. HAPPY READING!

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