Thursday, June 20, 2019

Water-Blue Eyes by Domingo Villar

First Sentence:  The line of lights on the coast, the glimmer of the city, the white spray where the waves broke… It made no difference that it was dark and the rain was lashing against the windows.
Police Inspector Leo Caldas is best known for his radio show Patrol on the Air, although very few of the calls are actual police matters.  One cryptic call seems to make no sense, however. Luis Regosa, a professional musician, has been murdered in a particularly brutal fashion.  Police Inspector Leo Caldaas, and his second, Rafael Estévez, are sent to the crime scene.  Within jazz clubs, the wealthy, and the work of forensics, it is up to them to find the killer.
One may appreciate that one of the two books on the victim's nightstand is "The Terracotta Dog" by Andrea Camilleri, as well as other authors. However, this is offset by a method of death which is unusual and particularly grim, especially for the victim—"This is worthy of Caligula."        
The author creates a wonderful sense of atmosphere—"In Galicia, however, swaths of green land gave way here and there to rias of varying colours, shielded from the pounding of the Atlantic by streamlined, white-sand islands." The restaurant, "Eligio's" is just the sort of place where one should love to dine--"...a small dish of beef stewed on a low heat, with potatoes seasoned with olive oil and a mixture of paprika and cayenne pepper, and a good portion of scallop quiche..." and "The Grial" for classic jazz.
Good characters can make or break a book.  Leo, Estévez, and even Superintendent make this book.  No great buddies, here.  Leo and Estevez couldn't be more different, nor could Estévez be more out of his element—'Is Estévez with you?' 'Yes,' ratified Caldas. 'Shouldn't he have come?' 'He shouldn't have been born.' Replied Soto and rang off. It's the contrast of the two which makes them entertaining. 

Although not mentioned in the story, Galicia is a unique area in the northwest corner of Spain and has strong Celtic connections.  That does help to explain why Estévez, who came from Argon, Zaragoza in northeastern Spain, felt so out of place--"To Rafael Estévez's stern Aragonese mind, things were this way or that, got done or didn't, so it was only with considerable effort that he managed to decipher the ambiguous expressions of his new fellow citizens.  The interview of a teenager by Estévez which follows is delightful. 
The humor is subtle and well done. Caldas is constantly being recognized from the radio show which is something of a running gag. Estévez encounter in the gay bar after injuring his foot is visual and makes one laugh.  Caldas is an intriguing character about whom we learn a bit, but not everything.  One slight issue in other books which are translated, it that while most of the text rings true, anger, or rage, often comes across over the top. 
Beneath it all, this truly is a book where procedure and forensic details are not overlooked. The clues are revealed as the mystery unfolds. "The most difficult cases were often solved after a seemingly insignificant point was brought to attention."
"Water-Blue Eyes" is a succinct, tightly plotted mystery with good twists and an excellent red herring.  The author's style is intriguing and invites one to read more of his books.

WATER-BLUE EYES (Police Proc-Leo Caldas-Vigo, Galicia, Spain-Contemp) – VG+
      Villar, Domingo – 1st of series
      Arcadia Books, Ltd. – Apr 2009


  1. I'm so glad you liked this. I'm also really happy that you noticed the wit in among the darker parts of the story. I think Villar does such a fine job of evoking Galician culture, lifestyle, and a lot more. If you haven't read it, I heartily recommend the next book in the series, Death on a Galician Shore.

  2. There's a woman in my mystery readers' group who recommended it and I'm so glad she did. Another woman in my group has been to this region so it was fascinating learning about it from her.