Friday, March 31, 2017

The Pianist's HandsThe Pianist's Hands by Eugenio Fuentes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"My hands are a pianist's hands too. And yet I've scattered small corpses all over the city with them."

This disquieting quote comes from the first page of Eugenio Fuentes' The Pianist's Hands (2003). Yet a reader who expects another run-of-the-mill story about serial killer of children will be disappointed. While the small corpses are indeed abundant, they are of different variety. This is my fourth book in the Ricardo Cupido series and despite several major reservations about Mr. Fuentes' work I still like the series because of the author's idiosyncrasies and his tendency to keep the protagonist in the background. I will keep searching for his other books as the author's European-flavored clichés are so refreshingly different from the overused American ones.

The novel features two interconnected threads taking place in Breda, a fictional city in Spain: a failed concert pianist makes his living by producing the aforementioned small corpses while the police and Cupido deal with a suspicious death in a construction company. When one of the partners falls to his death the investigation reveals several people who might have benefited from his demise. Of course, it is Cupido who eventually solves the case, via a revelation of sorts. One of the two minor threads is focused on the detective's elderly mother and the other on an affair of the heart between the deceased partner and one of his employees.

Luckily, Mr. Fuentes does not continue his gratuitous obsession with semen that spoiled my previous read of this author The Depths of the Forest . Unfortunately, the author still indulges in rather gratuitous scenes of cruelty. This time though my major complaint is Mr. Fuentes' propensity for amateur, superficial psychology and shallow sociological observations. The sweeping and stereotypical characterizations of the "country people" provide an acute example. The author also uses a particularly clumsy plot device offering a piece of important information conveniently late, along with an implausible explanation why it has not been available earlier. We can also find a totally incongruous bit about the Wittgenstein brothers - the philosopher and the painter. An awkwardly written sex scene that oscillates between weird pathos and plain ugliness suggests a possibility of imperfect translation.

Yet again, the author redeems himself in my eyes through producing a feel of unsophisticated innocence, charming and sweet naiveté that permeates the text, like in his Blood of the Angels . I also feel the allure of strange off-centeredness of the novel. The reader will not be able to confuse this novel with any of the current US crime/mystery bestsellers whose distinguishing feature is that they are all the same. Like these bestsellers Mr. Fuentes' mystery is also not very good but in quite a novel and amusing way.

Two and three quarter stars.

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