cover image The Sadness of the Samurai

The Sadness of the Samurai

Víctor del Árbol, trans. from the Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem. Holt, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9475-6

Gratuitous blood and gore threaten to overwhelm del Árbol’s first novel to be translated into English, an intricate thriller that initially grips but requires careful reading to avoid confusion. In a preface set in 1981 Barcelona, a mysterious woman, María Bengoecha, is on her hospital deathbed. She’s also under police guard as only her illness keeps her from standing trial for multiple murders. As the reader speculates about the events that brought María to this pass, the action shifts to 1941 Mérida, Spain, to another woman in dire straits, Isabel Mola. Isabel tries to flee with her son Andrés, who’s prone to fits of rage, to Portugal, to escape her vicious husband, whose mistreatment has forced her to leave another son behind in Mérida. The narratives eventually plausibly interconnect, but the frequent brutal assaults on women will be distasteful to many. Agent: Thomas Colchie, the Colchie Agency. (May)