ONLY ONE THING MISSING
Luis Manuel Ruiz, , trans. from the Spanish by Alfred MacAdam. . Grove, $24 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1730-4
"This is the first intellectual plot I've ever had: antiques, statues, Satanism. An embarrassment of riches," says Inspector Galvez, the Seville detective who investigates a series of strange crimes that occur when a newly widowed young woman named Alicia begins to fall apart mentally and emotionally. His list describes just a few of the tongue-in-cheek devices that Ruiz offers in this wily psychological thriller. The story begins after Alicia's husband and only child die in a car accident. At first Alicia seems to be on track for a solid emotional recovery, despite her brother-in-law, Esteban, not working very hard to disguise his passionate love for her. But her progress is short-circuited when she begins having visions of an idealized, imaginary city, with many of the images inspired by an antique statue purchased by Esteban. Then the owner of the antique shop is murdered, and Alicia's apartment is ransacked. Soon Alicia is having paranoid delusions in which a mysterious woman appears and disappears. She and Esteban begin to research the possibility that she is being affected by a satanic plot that dates back to medieval Lisbon. Ruiz does a fabulous job rendering Alicia's psychological erosion, focusing on her small, seemingly ordinary mental failures in order to generate suspense while downplaying the over-the-top elements of the satanic subplot. He balances the inevitably lurid satanic showdown with a cheeky sense of humor, making sly references to the likes of Polanski and Hitchcock. This is Ruiz's English-language debut, which should leave American audiences clamoring for more.
Reviewed on: 10/28/2002