Inside, night. Because it’s always inside and it’s always night. Harry McCoy he shakes his pant legs and curses his luck. Nobody beats bad grapes, but it’s better to hide. At least until I know what the hell is going on. Because if he’s here and not sleeping with Janey to the tune of ‘Street Fighting Man,’ something must be wrong. The last thing he remembers is that he was investigating the disappearance of a 13-year-old boy and that Bobby March had just overdosed. Ah, rock stars. They never learn.
«Spies, charismatic characters, overworked policemen, you will find them all at this table where three authors coincide with characters that have names, surnames and their own personality», he reads in passing on a piece of paper that someone has left lying on top of a desk.
Venue: Poble Nou Alliance Casino. Featuring: Mike W. Craven, Mick Herron and, of course, Alan Parks. Writers of meat and bone who, together with another hundred names, will participate until next February 13 at the festival BCNegra taking his hardworking detectives out for a walk; the same ones that come to life in these lines.
There is, for example, the real father of Harry. The hand that pulls the strings of ‘Children of February’ and ‘Bobby March’ will live forever. “Some characters that have a name, surnames and their own personality,” Harry rereads. He definitely has a name. And surnames. And if there is something left over, it is its own personality. Reckless, stubborn and tormented, the Scot is known to be watched. It will be Parks, who is always close. OR Thomas Kell. Because, for a moment, he seemed to see that elusive MI6 spy that Charles Cumming introduced him to ‘In a Strange Country’ years ago. Or, come to think of it, maybe it was Jackson Lamb. Because where Kell is, Lamb is usually also. And if they are both, the problems do not take long to appear.
The last thing he knew about Kell was that he was trying to avenge the death of his beloved Rachel Wallinger and that, in the middle of a ‘vendetta’, he ran into a jihadist plot in the middle of London. Almost nothing. He knows less about Lamb, although his fame precedes him: with ‘Slow Horses’ and ‘Dead Lions’ he has earned a reputation as a shadowy spy and a fan of fat sandwiches. Glamour, you say? That is they haven’t heard of Mick Herron or the House of the Swamp.
One such oak
None of this, Harry tells himself, helps him much. He returns to the playbill and, for a moment, is stunned: Don Winslow, Sergio Ramírez, Irvine Welsh, Hakkan Nesser, María Oruña, Alicia Giménez Bartlett, Ted Lewis, Ibon Martin, Mikel Santiado, Carmen Mola, Susana Rodríguez Lezaun, Xus González, Andrea Camilleri… Alive and dead. Pure genre or border novel. Trios hidden under a female name and Mossos d’Esquadra disguised as a writer. Of course: he knows almost all of them, even if only by name. The majors criminal minds of literature, the best architects of crime novels, together in the same space. And if they are all here, it will be that something will have to be investigated, but what is the mystery? Where to start?
A little local help wouldn’t go amiss, so he thinks about lassoing Delicate Petra. From what you’ve read, the veteran police inspector, almost thirty years on the job, doesn’t miss a thing, so it seems like a good place to start. The first investigations, however, do not give results. The only thing she manages to find out is that she is too busy preparing a tribute to Alicia Giménez Bartlett, godmother of the police ‘made in Spain’, and she cannot help him. Maybe next time.
Have you also heard of a certain Pepe Carvalho, but his luck does not improve there either: out of service for years, they tell him that the detective reappeared briefly in 2019 and that he is now, taciturn and in poor health, waiting for someone to write it again. Perhaps, he tells himself, his old friend Don Winslow, a private investigator before he became a novelist, will have to take care of that when it’s his turn to collect the Carvalho award. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence. What a pity that Méndez, a voracious reader and curator of the old, very old school, is not here to clarify it.
Lacking any more clues, Harry flips through the program again, but only the names are familiar. And some not even that. What will be that of BCNegra? Even the casino doesn’t look like a casino, it barely reaches a neighborhood theater, so things get complicated. He retraces his steps and along the way he stumbles, that is if he did not expect it, with
Richard Cupid. She shouldn’t know him, since they live in different decades and countries (let’s see who the handsome Breda finds on a map is!), but she knows him by sight, from seeing each other in the corridors of Tusquets and looking at each other sideways from the shelves.
He has never been the joy of the orchard, but he finds it more gloomy than usual. He’s getting all mixed up, he tells her, now that Eugenio Fuentes has put him to investigate the murder of a doctor from the Gregorio Marañón emergency room. The guy, explains Cupido, escaped on vacation to Breda with his family after the first and brutal wave of Covid and one day he woke up dead. Tall and calm, Cupid speaks cautiously, though he acknowledges that another cold case would be fatal to his reputation. At some point, he confesses, he has even considered asking for help from Dolores Morales but, alas, the former Nicaraguan guerrilla has enough not to lose sight of Sergio Ramírez and denounce the outrages of power without them ending up going over him. Or is it that he doesn’t watch the news?
Before vanishing, Cupid leaves two names scribbled on a piece of paper: Valentina Round Y Marcela Pieldelobo. If they can’t help you, he tells her, no one can. The first, from Vigo and a lieutenant of the Civil Guard, has just solved the strange murder in the cabin of a schooner of one of the most powerful women in Santander, so this should be a trifle for her. The second, an inspector stationed in Pamplona, has been in service for less time, but has already managed to outshine her predecessor, Inspector David Vázquez. It is rumored that his notion of ethics is somewhat lax and that he likes to raise the elbow his house in Zugarramurdi, but anything goes as long as he clears up the mess.
To find them, however, you must first find María Oruña Y Susana Rodriguez Lezaun. It seems easy, yes, but there are still days, almost a week, before they appear here. This, it is said, does not stop improving. Where are all the detectives when you need them? What good is it to have ended up in the closest thing to a black novel kettle, to an all-you-can-eat buffet of black criminal potion, when everyone seems to have better things to do?
Commissioner without stripes
Harry is about to throw in the towel and give himself up again, as usual, to drunken excesses; he’s about to start thinking about going back to his loved and hated Glasgow, when he shows up Carlos Zanon, commissioner without a badge but with enough gallons to handle the whole thing. He’s in a hurry, he says. He can’t stay, he insists.
In addition, he assures, he is withdrawing from crime novels, so he prefers not to stain his hands too much. Of course: before getting lost on the way to the Mill -or so Harry seems to understand; go to know- drop a name as who does not want the thing. Manuela Mauri’s.
She is relatively new and somewhat inexperienced, just a couple of high-profile cases and a double crime in the process of being solved, but she comes recommended by Lorenzo Silva and Noemi Trujillo. And those two, he adds, are trustworthy. Not like the lame Chuster and the Cisco. Better not get too close to those. That because? Ask José Ángel Mañas and Jordi Ledesma, who have made them a nice tailored suit, a ‘hardo bolied’ soccer fan and toxic with ‘En el discount’.
Harry, who doesn’t even know what the hell he has to investigate, whether there’s a stiff somewhere or just a bunch of writers playing smart, starts to get really pissed off. We know, Zanón tells him, no one beats a bad grape. But calm. Because all the answers, he says pointing to the program, are there. You just need to know how to ask the right questions and follow the tracks of the crime.