Read: The Vanished Hands, Robert Wilson.
I rather like Robert Wilson’s crime novels (they’re not quite mysteries, nor literary fiction, nor thrillers), but I always have the problem that after reading them, I can’t describe much of anything that happened. They’re strongly character-driven, so I could tell you all about the main character, Inspector Javier Falcon, but not two weeks after reading this book I have to think hard to recall what it was that he was investigating.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and Wilson certainly makes it work for him. He creates a dreamy sense of unreality in his novels - not the sort that makes you question, but the sort that makes you suspend your disbelief and accept whatever happens next. The Vanished Hands was like one long fever-dream. I’m pretty sure there were murders, and some carry-over from the previous book in the series (the excellent The Blind Man of Seville), and a cesspit like an open wound under an expensive residential area, and a really hot sex scene, but it all blends together in my mind.
Wilson is at his best when evoking a setting or a character, and it’s Falcon and his city, Seville, that stand out most to me in my memory of this work. Wilson’s Seville isn’t a city of orange blossoms and flamenco dances; it’s a place of dirty double-dealing among the blasting heat and the ancient culture. I might not be able to tell you exactly who did what to whom while I was visiting Seville in my mind, but it’s a place I would love to go back to in Wilson’s next novel.
Next time, though, I’ll reread the previous books in the series before I start the next. Maybe if I’m not so enchanted by Wilson’s characters, language, symbolism and setting, I’ll actually be able to sort out what’s going on in the plot.