Or the Bull Kills You by Jason Webster
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
First of all, I'm willing to concede that I've read too many mysteries lately. The newest C.J. Box offering, for example, Cold Wind, answered all of my questions about Joe Pickett's mother-in-law, in a way that was much too easy, with some preaching about wind turbine energy that I found just as annoying as I find all of that dreck that Nathaniel Hawthorne lined The Scarlet Letter with, in order to transform it from a 50-page story into a novel.
Of course, I may also just need to change genres for a while. Stephen King, for example. I'm a huge fan of his, but the last two I've read from him barely cracked three stars. Again, it may be that familiarity breeds contempt.
So, with "Or the Bull Kills You," I changed authors (this is Jason Webster's debut novel, after a nonfiction career) and countries (I've not read a novel set in Spain since "Don Quixote" in high school). At least I don't think I have.
This is a novel about bullfighting and about love. The main character, Max Camara, is a homicide detective in the town of Valencia, assigned to solve the murder of the flamboyant and successful bullfighter Jorge Blanco. Not only was Blanco murdered, but the attacker tried to hack off some very private parts of the torero before running away.
Yes, Camara has been dogged by allegations of police brutality in prior cases. His superior is ready to can him, or at least demote him to a very menial position in the civil service. He fights against the political establishment in the whole city. A hot girl hits on him, but then she ends up moving away (oh yeah, spoiler alert, if you couldn't see that coming). He leads a tortured existence, so he starts drinking when he wakes up, and fortunately his grandfather grows pot for the two of them.
By the time these cliches have stopped landing on your head, you'll also find that the bullfighter was engaged to an older woman clinging to notions of her beauty (think of someone between Madonna and Carmen Electra on the age/sensuality scale), but also secretly gay. No, the gay lover didn't kill him. But I won't tell you who did.
So, I've come to two conclusions after reading this book. I think there was a lot of cool description of the "Fallas" festival that happens in Valencia each year, but I was distracted by all of the meaningless maudlin meandering that took up too much of this book.
But I might also be worn out on mysteries. So, I'm not reading any more until the library notifies me that my hold on James Lee Burke's newest, Creole Belle, is ready for me to pick up. This should be sometime in July or August.
If you like pensive detectives with a dark side, then by all means go for it. If you pay attention early on, you'll solve the mystery in the first 80 pages. But if you don't, and if you do enjoy reading a man's thoughts after he has been dumped, for page after page, then this might be the summer read for you. Just don't expect things to turn out well.
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