Detectives in Spanish literature
Although as Spaniards we are huge fans of crime novels, until recently, we used to have to pause for some time before answering questions such as “is there an equivalent to Sherlock Holmes in Spain?”, “whatwould be the Spanish equivalent of Miss Marple?”, and “how tough would a Spanish version of Philip Marlowe be?”
For a long time Spain´s “characterful detectives” could be counted on the fingers of one hand and, if we ask the older readers they would probably mention these two characters as being the most relevant.
- Pepe Carvalho:he is a character, created by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, who is a Galician detective with residency in Barcelona. His past is completely unusual: during his childhood he was a supporter of the Communist Party but, after spending time in jail, he ended up becoming a CIA agent. Withdrawing from the world of espionage he became a peculiar private detective who loves to cook.
- Plinio: he was created by the writer Francisco García Pavón as early as 1965. Plinio is the local police chief of Tomelloso, a city in the region of La Mancha. He is an astute, calm and patient policeman whose methods are based on an almost sociological knowledge of rural Spain. The stories of his adventures were very successful during the 60s, during the period of developmentalism.
Today everything has changed and we have numerous Spanish detectives in our libraries; almost all of them with a legion of followers. Which ones do we recommend that you read?
- Víctor Ros: although he is one of the newest detectives (JerónimoTristante wrote his first adventure in 2007), the period in which the book is set, during the tumultuous period at the end of the 19th century, is one of the oldest. Víctor is a young deputy inspector working for Madrid´s Metropolitan Police Service who applies all his knowledge about previous thieves to resolve the most sinister crimes. His methods of investigation resemble the ones used by Holmes.
- Rubén Bevilacqua and Virginia Chamorro: as you know in Spain we have an atypical body known as the Guardia Civil and these two agents, created by the prize-winning writer Lorenzo Silva, belong to this distinguished institution. Virginia is a typical, competent agent who does everything by the book, while Rubén is an irreverent but effective character. Together they make a great team because they can take certain liberties while making the best use of their talents whenever necessary.
- Cornelia Weber-Tejedor: this superintendent of the Frankfurt Police Department´s (Polizeiprësidium de Fráncfort) homicides unit is the brainchild of the writer Rosa Ribas. Cornelia is the daughter of a German father and a Spanish mother, a cultural mix which usually causes problems at home but which is very effective at work. She is a characterful woman who only has two weaknesses: doughnuts and episodes of “The Simpsons”.
- Javier Falcón: Falcón is an inspector with Seville´s police force… he is created by an English writer called Robert Wilson! Perhaps for this reason, Javier is the person who most resembles an Englsih detective: he has a traumatic past, his romantic relationships are worse than disastrous and he pretends to be a tough guy but he has a heart. Even though his adventures are typically Spanish, they certainly do not fit the clichés.
- Rogelio Tizón: created by the extremely famous writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Tizón only features in one novel, “El Asedio”, set during the Peninsular War. It does not look like Pérez-Reverte is going to write any more novels featuring this 53 year old skeptical and ruthless policeman from Cádiz; but we all know that many readers would like to see a saga with him as the main character.
Some of these sleuths have been best-sellers and others, like Bevilacqua and Chamorro, have won prestigious awards. But the most important thing is that they demonstrate that we also have detectives as tough as those in Chicago or New York.