Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
Max Camara: a Chief Inspector from Valencia, on leave after shooting his man, comes home to La Mancha where his fierce grandfather is recovering from a heart attack.
Immediately he runs into murder: a teenage prostitute found naked in a skip, echoing the death of his sister thirty years ago, the killer never found. Now Camara's help is elicited by his old school pal: the current crime commissioner.
There are three threads to this story but the first, the murders, is sidetracked by what appears to be a Mafia scam involving saffron trafficking (saffron retailing at 3000 euros per kilo) - a sub-plot that introduces Camara's lover, a journalist from Madrid slavering after a potential scoop. The third and most prominent thread, more a hawser, centres on fermented and fermenting memories of the Spanish Civil War.
Sixty years ago the grandfather fought against Franco, then for Hitler: years of revolution and spurious reconciliation, of slaughter, treachery and lynching, not only on both sides but on all sides. In the event communists, anarchists and Trotskyists turned on each other. The legacy of war and internecine horrors lives on in aged participants, in descendants - and an ancient Luger, cached but functional, the final solution for settling old scores.
Neatly and inexorably Webster links murder, present and past, the saffron scam, and a war unknown to most readers, forgotten by those alive and cognizant in the 1930s. Dialogue is stark, narrative rambling where it explores the mind of Camara, a problematic anti-hero searching for himself and concluding that his mission is to bring order to chaos. That is, to catch killers. Most fictional cops get there sooner or take it as read from the start but here the search provides the leitmotiv in an exotic setting of yellow crocuses and timeless savagery.