A Dead Man in Barcelona

Written by Michael Pearce
Review by Alana White

Set in 20th-century Barcelona, this is the fifth entry in Michael Pearce’s “a dead man in” series, featuring series protagonist Sandor Seymour of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch.

The year is 1912. This time out, Seymour is dispatched to investigate the death of prominent Englishman Sam Lockhart who, two years earlier, was found dead in his cell in Barcelona, apparently of poisoning. Upon his arrival in Barcelona, Seymour discovers Lockhart was rounded up during “Tragic Week,” when the Spanish government conscripted young Catalonian men and ordered them onto ships bound for the unpopular war in Spanish Morocco. At the city’s dockside, the soldiers and their civilian supporters rebelled. In the ensuring riot, many of the dissenters were killed in the streets by the Spanish army called in to put the riot down.

Was Sam Lockhart a supporter of the anarchists and part of the rebellion, or was he mistakenly imprisoned that bloody night, only to die in jail? Seymour finds the Spanish investigation into the two-year-old murder ongoing and appallingly unorganized. As he conducts his own investigation into the case, Barcelona comes to life with Pearce’s description of an energetic and lovely city beset with intrigue. Ultimately, though, even with its tragic set-up, the story seems lackluster and thin, and the history is sometimes confusing.