The Siege (El Asedio) by Arturo Perez-Reverte (2010)

220px-Arturo_Pérez-ReverteThis is the book which I have just finished reading. I bought it at Oxfam in Glasgow partly because the volunteers were so nice in there (compare to the volunteer lady in a Leeds charity shop the other week, ‘we don’t put sizes on the clothes because people argue about them with us’). I felt I had to buy something and I had seen this book around plus I like Spanish writers so I decided £2.99 was a price worth paying; hey I’m giving the money to kids in Africa (or perhaps paying the chief exec’s mega-salary). The book is long – nearly 600 pages of quite dense text. Indeed it is an epic and feels like a great nineteenth century novel but written in a modern style and totally engaging; it is basically a bloody brilliant historical thriller. The plot is set in Cadiz 1811 as it is besieged during the Napoleonic Wars. But there are several stories going on not least a love story that evolves and a Jack the Ripper type serial killer on the prowl. There are a great range of characters and it does take quite a while to work out how they all connect. The feeling to the book is wonderfully claustrophobic as it must feel in any besieged city though this one had relatively few bombs hitting it primarily because of the distance of the French artillery and the poor technology to achieve long-distance, accurate bombings – this is important in the plot. The thriller aspect is so well done and right to the end one is kept wondering who is committing the murders? If i were being critical then I could say the ending is good (this isn’t a book where great writing just peeters out because the author doesn’t know how to finish it) but it completes with more of a sigh than a scream. And there are some highly unlikely plot lines like communication across enemy lines but that’s to be expected with epic fiction. Overall, highly recommended though don’t expect to get through it too quickly. And the author is worth looking up on Wikipedia. He’s got a chequered history but an exciting back catalogue to be explored.

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