Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Death of a Nationalist: Rebecca Pawel


Carlos Tejada Alonso y León is a Sergeant in the Guardia Civil, stationed in Madrid in 1939.  He is the son of a conservative Southern family of landowners, a supporter of the Catholic Franquista cause, and a Nationalist. The bitter civil war between the Nationalists and the Republicans has ended and the Guardia Civil is attempting to impose order in Madrid.

This story begins with the death of a corporal in the Guardia Civil. A young woman, sympathetic to the Republicans, goes to recover a child's school notebook left by the body, and is casually killed by Sergeant Tejada, just due to her presence at the scene of crime. From that point, I found it hard to have any sympathy with the protagonist. Not impossible, but very hard.

Tejada soon discovers that the dead corporal is an old friend and thus is doubly determined to find the murderer. His inquiries take him to the schoolgirl who owned the notebook and her family and school.

This is another book I should have read a long time ago. It has been on my shelves for twelve years. However, the time was right, and it was a great choice for the European Reading Challenge. Reading about the Spanish Civil War was new for me. The story does not go into a lot of historical background, but uses the circumstances of the characters lives to provide the background needed. The book was  extremely well-written and the characters had plenty of depth.

Quote from the author's web page:
Death of a Nationalist was originally conceived as a single novel with two protagonists, one on each side of the Spanish Civil War.  But at the end of the book, I realized there was more story to tell about at least one of the protagonists.  Carlos Tejada Alonso y León, the right-wing guardia who suffers a crisis of conscience in the first book, needed to develop further.  So the book became a series, currently with four novels, detailing the life of Carlos Tejada, who is often unsympathetic, but ultimately, like Marcus Brutus, an honorable man.
I hope to continue reading the series. I have the fourth book but this is definitely a series that needs to be read in order, so I will look out for the next book.

Also see reviews at:
The View from the Blue House, Brothers Judd, and MostlyFiction Book Reviews
Also added in November 2018: A review at Maphead's Book Blog

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Publisher:   Soho Press, 2004 (orig. pub. 2003)
Length:       262 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       Carlos Tejada Alonso y Leon #1
Setting:      Spain, 1939
Genre:       Historical mystery
Source:      I purchased this book.

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review, which piqued my interest in the novel. :) Could I enquire if the mystery in the novel is resolved in ways that lean towards the traditional Golden Age puzzle?

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    1. I am not sure if this novel fits that format, Jonathon, although I did have suspicions of who the culprit was and there were no surprises. But it isn't a traditional puzzle mystery.

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  2. This does sound really interesting, Tracy, even if it's hard to feel sympathy for the protagonist. It's about an important piece of history, and I haven't read enough about that time.

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    1. I am very ignorant of that conflict, Margot, and I know more now, and that is good. And a very good story also.

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  3. Great cover, but not sure if I'd want to read it to be honest.

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    1. It is a nice cover, Col, and I loved reading about the time and place. Not an entirely pleasant read.

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  4. Interesting premise. I've read novels only from the Republican POV--For Whom the Bell Tolls the most prominent in my memory. I do believe reading this one is mandatory! Thanks for introducing it to me, Tracy!

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    1. It is a different approach, Mathew, which made it more interesting but also darker. I did not know much about the story going into it, which was good.

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  5. I'm always fascinated by the Spanish Civil War so I am tempted by this one Tracy...

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    1. It is definitely worth reading, Moira, and probably even more so if you know more about that time than I did.

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  6. Sounds intriguing, Tracy. I've never read this author though I have heard of her. Maybe at some point down the line I'll take a look. Thanks for the intro.

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    1. I don't know why it takes me so long to get to some books, Yvette, and then I usually am glad that I have read them.

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  7. Couldn't read this due to the character's political sympathies with the Franco side. So many people were killed in this war, and after the Republicans lost, thousands were imprisoned, tortured and killed. The poet Lorca was killed, for one.
    And Hitler bombed the town of Guernica, and killed untold numbers of people. This atrocity is enshrined in Picasso's painting of the same name.
    I had taken it out of the library and loaned it to a friend who was so disgusted with the protagonist that he would not deal with this writer again.

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    1. I know very little about the Spanish Civil War, Kathy, although I have always been interesting in topics around the time of World War II. This book gave me a picture of how devastating that conflict was to the country and the people, without dwelling on it.

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  8. Glad you liked this book. I read it awhile back and also enjoyed it.
    https://maphead.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/sketches-of-spain/

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    1. Thanks for commenting and including your link, Maphead. I have added it to the list of reviews above. I did get a lot out of the book and now I just have to find #2 in the series. I have the last book.

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