The Siege

Written by Arturo Pérez-Reverte Frank Wynne (trans.)

In 1811 Spain, in the Peninsular War, the city of Cádiz is under siege, with French artillery shelling it from across the bay. Violence is also closer at hand: a serial killer is torturing, mutilating, and murdering teenage girls. Commissioner Tizón must catch him; but how?

The siege and the murders will upturn the lives not only of Tizón, but also of a French artillery officer, a capable businesswoman, a tough corsair, and a fussy taxidermist who is also a French spy. These are only a few of the fascinating and memorable characters.

The SiegeI don’t think this was meant to be a murder mystery, because there are few if any clues to help the reader spot the identity of the murderer (readers who are more intelligent than myself may disagree). This is instead an absorbing “straight” historical novel, with characters whose attitudes and behaviour are plausibly those of their own time and place.

It is a grim story, whose ending seems inevitable, but even in translation its literary quality shines out. Strongly recommended.