Global Vibes: Spanish sleuth novel compels

El juego de Caín by César Mallorquí is an enthralling Spanish detective novel centering on Carmen Hidalgo’s most recent case. The book opens with a case proposal from Ignacio Vazquez, the president of Deportivo de Chamartín: he wishes Hidalgo and her detective agency to investigate the unusual spending habits of his star player, Rubén Mochedano. There is never a dull moment in Carmen Hidalgo’s quest for answers that leads her all through Madrid and even to Colombia and back.

Accompanied by various uncouth allies including Ángel (a murderer for hire), El Gato (the leader of a biker gang), Hermes (an ex-con), Gabriel (the pretty face) and her cousin, Hidalgo quickly uncovers that Mochedano is being blackmailed, but that reveal is only the tip of the
deadly iceberg.

Although her past is dismal and rather depressing and Hidalgo has no more reason to be joyous than any other hardened detective, with her affinity for brand name shoes, Hidalgo pushes the boundaries of the stereotypical somber sleuth. Of course, with a woman as the main character, the obligatory love story is present, but Mallorquí puts his own spin on the stereotype, transforming the usual sad attempt at giving a female protagonist depth into a mockery of other novels in the detective genre. Hidalgo goes so far as to have a handsome young man, Gabriel, as her secretary in place of the beautiful yet normally clueless girl found at the front desks of many a detective.

Hidalgo’s dark sense of humor paired with Mallorquí’s levity in a serious genre make for a unique novel with a compelling story that will leave the reader guessing until the last pages. While some major plot points are quite easy to predict, Mallorquí sets the reader on a mental journey with varying depths of guesswork, and few, if any, readers would be able to divine the entire story before the end of the novel, especially because Mallorquí sees fit to leave the ending open to interpretation. The murder and intrigue of El juego de Cain make for a page-turning quick read.

Sadly, the book has one major drawback for many Tech students. It has never been translated into English, so in order to enjoy the twists and turn of Mallorquí’s novel, one must also enjoy the Spanish language. For those just learning Spanish, though, this is a rather good read, because it does not use extraordinarily complicated language, but is not a children’s book in any
sense either.

For those not daunted by this potential language barrier, El juego de Caín is a great novel for leisurely reading. There are many references to modern culture and, unlike many stories in this age of technology, the main characters do not create plot holes all over the place by ignoring their cell phones and other technology. On the contrary, Hidalgo and her friends use technology to their advantage, at one point even “invocando a san Google, escribí…” (“invoking Saint Google, I typed…”), which is the response a good majority of the modern world would have when faced with a question to which they do not know the answer. This refreshing acceptance of technology makes for a more believable story.

El juego de Caín’s enjoyable story and humor leaves the reader looking forward to reading El juego de los herejes, the second documented case of Carmen Hidalgo, which takes place quite some time after the events of El juego de Caín. If the first book is anything to judge by, Mallorquí will not fail to please and entice with his return to the dark humor of Hidalgo.