A Small Death in Lisbon

A Small Death in Lisbon

4.0 16
by Robert Wilson

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A sex slaying in modern-day Lisbon. A secret in 1941 Berlin. The shocking connection makes this the most talked-about thriller in years.


A sex slaying in modern-day Lisbon. A secret in 1941 Berlin. The shocking connection makes this the most talked-about thriller in years.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Seductive...compelling."—Los Angeles Times

"A taut international thriller." —Time

"Fascinating...wonderfully rich." Chicago Tribune

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
In this intelligent international thriller, Robert Wilson paints two parallel portraits: an historical psychological tale of suspense, and a contemporary murder mystery. Though separated by time, both tales inexorably and brilliantly come together. The first takes place during World War II, where Klaus Felsen, a prominent Berlin factory owner, is recruited by the SS to procure wolfram, an alloy vital to Hitler's blitzkreig. Felsen, a smart but ultimately selfish man, is highly successful in his dealmaking, albeit always at the expense of others. Greed, murder, and lust entwine to destroy not only his own, but numerous lives.

The second and parallel story is the present-day murder investigation of a troubled, promiscuous young girl found dead in Lisbon. The tenacious and highly ethical Inspector Ze Coelho, with the help of Carlos, a young detective assigned to the case, discovers a dysfunctional family driven by revenge and scandal, empowered by lies. Despite numerous plots twists and turns, the Inspector-ever in search of the truth-finds the murderer, but also unexpectedly unearths long-forgotten crimes. It's this "small death in Lisbon" that links the tragic past of Nazi Germany and fascist Portugal to the present, where it becomes clear that the sins of the father do rain down on future generations.

Wilson's page-turning story of political intrigue is unpredictable and highly original. In the tradition of John Le Carré and Martin Cruz Smith, Wilson's first novel to be published in the U.S. marks the debut of a deft storytelling talent.

Marilyn Stasio
Wilson's masterly work shows us the devastating - and ineradicable - effects of war on the human soul and the national psyche.
New York Times Book Review
Eugen Weber
...a tour de force: convoluted yet clear, oppressive yet seductive, distasteful yet compelling.
Los Angeles Times
Irish Times
Highly satisfying, part thriller, part psychological mystery and part novel of ideas. And superbly well written.
Manchester Evening News
Robert Wilson is a masterful craftsman, and with this atmospheric page-turner, he should find the wide readership he amply deserves.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The real star of this gripping and beautifully written mysteryDwhich won the British Crime Writers' Golden Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel last yearDis Portugal, whose history and people come to life on every page. Wilson tells two stories: the investigation into the brutal sex murder of a 15-year-girl in 1998, and the tangled, bloody saga of a financial enterprise that begins with the Nazis in 1941. Although the two stories seem unrelated, both are so strong and full of fascinating characters that readers' attentionDand their faith that they will eventually be connectedDshould never waver. The author creates three compelling protagonists: middle-aged detective Jose Coelho, better known as Ze; Ze's late British wife, whom he met while exiled in London with his military officer father during the anti-Salazar political uprisings of the 1970s; and Ze's wise, talented and sexually active 16-year-old daughter. The first part of the WWII story focuses on an ambitious, rough-edged but likeable Swabian businessman, Klaus Felsen, convinced by the Gestapo to go to Portugal and seize the lion's share of that country's supply of tungsten, vital to the Nazi war effort. Later, we meet Manuel Abrantes, a much darker and more dangerous character, who turns out to be the main link between the past and the present. As Ze sifts through the sordid circumstances surrounding the murder of the promiscuous daughter of a powerful, vindictive lawyer, Wilson shines a harsh light on contemporary Portuguese society. Then, in alternating chapters, he shows how and why that society developed. All this and a suspenseful mysteryDwho could ask for more? (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Forbes Magazine
This fast-paced, nail-biting masterpiece begins on two tracks that convincingly and chillingly collide at the end. One part takes place in the late 1990s and has a homicide inspector investigating the murder of a teenage girl. The father is a cold, well- connected lawyer; the much younger mother is mentally unbalanced. The victim herself was appallingly promiscuous. The other tale goes back to World War II. A German manufacturer is dragooned by the SS to head up a mission in Portugal to secure as much tungsten as possible for the Nazi war machine. Greed and betrayal run rampant. Most of the all too grittily real characters are dealt some form of rough justice. The book will send you to Amazon.com to buy Wilson's other works. (18 Jun 2007)
—Steve Forbes
Library Journal
Klaus Felsen, a Berlin businessman forced into the SS against his will in 1941, has been assigned to Portugal. From there, he ships the Germans wolfram--a mineral desperately needed by Hitler's war machine--and, near the end of the war, smuggles Nazi gold in the other direction, ultimately betraying the men who control him. Over 50 years later, Inspector Ze Coelho works to solve the murder of a young girl near Lisbon and in doing so unravels a tangled skein that ties the corruption of the past to the tragedy of the present. Wilson's fifth novel, winner of England's Golden Dagger for Best Crime Novel, richly deserves both the acclaim it has garnered overseas and a wide audience in this country. Using story lines that converge in time, Wilson skillfully weaves an engrossing and complex tale, characterized by an atmospheric evocation of past and present Portugal, fascinating characters of great psychological depth, a brilliant plot that grips the reader to the last word, and an immensely satisfying mastery of craft and language. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.--Ronnie H. Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Paul Gray
Robert Wilson's A Small Death in Lisbon turns a local murder case into a taut international thriller.
Kirkus Reviews
The murder of a teenaged minx opens up a mystery that reaches back to the darkest secrets of wartime in this double-decker winner of the British Crime Writers' 1999 Golden Dagger Award.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Seductive...compelling."—Los Angeles Times

"A taut international thriller." —Time

"Fascinating...wonderfully rich." —Chicago Tribune

Meet the Author

ROBERT WILSON is the author of numerous novels, including The Company of Strangers and A Small Death in Lisbon, which won the Gold Dagger Award as Best Crime Novel of the Year from Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association. A graduate of Oxford University, he has worked in shipping, advertising, and trading in Africa, and has lived in Greece, Portugal, and West Africa.

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A Small Death in Lisbon 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. I picked it up based on a review I saw in a magazine. It is one of the best books I have ever read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Picked up the book on a whim, and so, so glad I did. It is beatifully written, descriptive like few I've had the pleasure of reading. The characters and plots were well concieved, developed, deep, and alive. I simply did not want to stop reading. The twists through time, always bringing you back to the present story were compelling. I enjoyed both plot lines tremendously, for each one could have been a great book in itself, and here we get both, and when the merge, it hits you....with a smile on your face because you should have seen the connection. The action is merciless, sexually raw, and filled with loathsome characters. Even the good guys have flaws and pain. Real people in difficult times trying to survive, and some, get ahead at any cost. A truly enjoyable, smart read. I will definatly be looking for Mr. Wilson's next book to hit the states.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend this book...the parallel (obviously) connected time-separated development device works well...characters well-drawn with feel of realism...feels authentic, plausible and well researched...first 2/3 or so of book is significantly better as many twists and turns of increasingly convoluted plot feels a bit rushed and less convincingly thought out compared to first 2/3...nevertheless, excellent thriller which is not only the proverbial 'page turner', but is a great primer on modern Portugese history as a wonderful bonus...highly highly recommended; stayed up till 4 a.m. to finish it (on a weekday!)...Le Carre-esque (when he is near his best)...
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