This first novel by Joaquín Camps, a professor at the University of Valencia, is a winner. As a mystery, it hits the mark solidly, combining good storytelling and rich language with strong characters and imaginative twists on the standard elements of the genre.
The novel is just shy of 800 pages in the original Spanish, which allows plenty of time for full development of its intertwined themes and plots. Most of the action takes place in the Spanish cities of Valencia and Madrid, and Camps's use of place provides an underlying flow for the various threads of the narrative. Descriptions of places and characters are tight and vivid.
Dialogue and pacing are the strengths that move the story along. The dialogue is blunt, with no self-consciousness. The speed and intensity of the dialogue facilitate the transitions between scenes. The author knows exactly when to move from one scene to another, and the reader is never left with the disappointment that accompanies an abrupt move from a great scene in a mystery to a mediocre informational scene. In La última confidencia del escritor Hugo Mendoza, movement between storylines is deft and well-executed. The novel is thoroughly crafted, with humor and intelligence adding life to every conversation and situation.
Some of the characterizations and tropes are familiar to readers and movie-goers, such as the use of a handsome university professor as an unlikely detective, assisted by an intelligent and faithful female. This is no Dan Brown novel, however. The action stays firmly within a Spanish cultural atmosphere.
A better comparison would be with The Silkworm, J.K. Rowling's most recent novel, published under the second of her two post-Potter pseudonyms. The wife of an author whose novels enjoy a cult following reaches out for assistance to a seriously flawed detective-protagonist. The haziness of the world of publication is present in the form of an old, odd, chainsmoking female editor whose own motives are far from clear, and competition for publication rights motivates the actions of several characters. Sex is ever-present, appearing both as an expected source of tension among the characters as well as in the context of crime.