I stumbled across Sánchez’s work on NetGalley when I requested The Art Restorer, reviewed later this week. The publisher was incredibly accommodating and provided a galley of this for me to review as well! (Damn me and my completion-ist tendencies!) I received no compensation in return for my honest response to the novel.
Although it started off a bit slow, maybe as a result of the translation?, I quickly fell into the book and ended up loving it! The closest thing I can find to compare it to is Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series (I’ve reviewed the two most recent here and here)! I won’t spend too much time comparing the two works/authors, because I want to give Sánchez his due, but suffice to say this novel (and what I’ve read of The Art Restorer) are SO much better.
Whereas Brown focuses on the thrill and the surface of the mysteries and it feels like he throws in as many historical references, mysteries and ephemera which overshadow the story. Don’t get me wrong their great fun reads and he’s clearly made his mark on popular literature, but if you want something that feels in-depth and really well researched read these.
It doesn’t hurt I loved in the afterward where Sánchez writes,
“Other sources of information are easy to find on the Internet; but please take some personal advice: researchers beware. According to the source, the dates of the events searched for can oscillate from five to fifteen years. Check any information from the Internet against other documented historical sources.”
I want EVERY person in school to READ THIS LINE and learn to live by it. He mentions again at the start of The Art Restorer that all of his stories are based on fiction and that it’s up to the reader to decide which parts are true.
So the primary reason, Sánchez’s book was better than Brown’s, apart from the in-depth single source/resource, was the setting. Sánchez didn’t hop around the globe from one giant monument to another, he didn’t pick somewhere super famous (outside of its home country). Sánchez wrote about what and where he knew, Barcelona and San Sebastian, Spain. If this book doesn’t make you want to visit San Sebastian (Google image search link) I don’t know what will! Needless to say I need to plan a trip to Spain ASAP.
In choosing to have the book in one location and one that he knew so well, Sánchez, was able to dive more in-depth into his mystery/thriller and build a more invested, better written story than the surface-deep page turners Brown writes. I hope this holds up through The Art Restorer, but we’ll see.
Recommendation: If you can get through the first 20-to-30 pages where it’s a little over descriptive, it’s DEFINITELY worth the read. I figured out the major plot point early on, but the reasoning and connection was not at all what I thought it was, so even though I knew I was still surprised at the end.
Opening Line: “Barcelona lay radiant beneath a beautiful April sky.”
Closing Line: “Enrique, alone on the esplanade and soaked by the raging storm, the tears on his face melding with the raindrops, grasping the stone wall with both hands, waited in vain for a miracle that he knew would never come.” (Whited out.)