July 5, 2008

A Small Death in Lisbon

A Small Death in Lisbon
Robert Wilson


(July 5, 2008)

In 1941, a German factory manager named Klaus Felsen is forced to play poker with SS-Gruppenführer Lehrer. Felsen wins, and in Lehrer punishes the winner by forcing him into the SS where he runs an operation buying Portuguese tungsten.

In 1998, a teenage girl's body is found on a Lisbon beach, not far from Inspector Zé Coehlo’s house. The inspector finds no clothes and no clues. A strange new partner with no skills has been forced upon him by the inspector’s superiors.

These events, of course, are intimately related, and their inexorable and surprisingly-sensible unfolding makes this a delightful, unsentimental mystery with a superb sense of place and time. A friend suggested Wilson recently when I mentioned that I wanted to read something about Portugal, and I found that I’d purchased this book five or six years ago and somehow forgot to read it.