Original title: Pequnas Infamias
Translated from: Spanish
Translator: Christopher Andrews
Genre: Crime, literary novel
Year of publication: 1998 (original); 2003 (translation)
Setting & time: Spain, contemporary
Chef Nestor Chaffinch (speciality: sweet desserts) finds himself stuck inside a walk-in freezer in the middle of the night after catering a successful private party and is found dead and frozen in the morning. At least four people in the house had reason to want him dead, but who killed him, and was he even murdered at all?
After this first, terrifying chapter, the narrative flashes back to the events that lead up to the death, showing how Fate tangled together the lives of several people and finally led them all together in one place for a grand finale. The translation is seamless and according to reviewers who have read it in both languages Andrews has managed to preserve the author’s style, which is, as any good translator knows, a commendable feat.
This is a stylish, elegant and darkly humorous whodunnit/whydunnit, as rich as the chocolate truffles Nestor is so proud of, but with more than a hint of bitter flavour underneath. Several of the characters are aware that Nestor is privy to secrets they would rather not have revealed to the world, and the narrative is an examination of how this knowledge of their little (and sometimes not so little) indiscretions may have led to his death.
The characters are deftly drawn and rounded and a hint of magic realism lends the story a touch of supernatural mystery that spices things up nicely, like a piece of ginger added to dark chocolate. Nestor’s tantalisingly incomplete recipes add a touch of humour, and the result is a wonderfully entertaining but dark story about a man heading unknowingly to his doom. 4+ stars.