Pawel frames the complex ethical issues she raises in the divided loyalties of her series hero, Lt. Carlos Tejada, an officer in the Guardia Civil, and his wife, Elena, whose sympathies are entirely with the Republican cause. Until the family wounds are healed, Pawel argues, the war will never end.
The New York Times
Both time and place-1940, just after the Spanish Civil War, in a remote village in the mountains of northern Spain-are impeccably rendered in Edgar-winner Pawel's well-researched if austere novel, her third (after 2004's Law of Return) to feature Carlos Tejada, a lieutenant in the Guardia, the police force of Fascist Spain. Tejada has left his previous post in Salamanca to take command of the Guardia in the town of Potes, whose small size belies its troubles. Guerrillas killed his predecessor, and the area has been designated a "Devastated Region" in the war's aftermath. Tejada and his young wife, Elena, who's carrying their first child, are both greeted with wary suspicion, despite Elena's Republican sympathies. The Civil War may be over, but the conflict lives on, embodied by the relationship between Tejada and Elena and their relationships with the residents of Potes. The crime that propels the mystery, which is a long time in coming, involves the theft of two crates of dynamite, a local rebel's death and a ruthless and enterprising guerrilla. But for all the book's richness of detail, the lack of narrative drive and flatness of tone may disappoint fans of more conventional mystery fare. (Feb. 1) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A cop's transfer to a new posting in Franco's Spain comes with a full slate of new problems. Pleased to leave his position in Salamanca for a promotion to his own command in the Cantabrian village of Potes, Lt. Carlos Tejada anticipates less strife with his fellow officers and a warmer reception for his pregnant wife Elena, usually shunned as too much of a leftist (Law of Return, 2003, etc.). When they arrive at the snow-encrusted outpost, however, no one is there to meet them, and when the farmer they get to give them a lift drops them at the nearest lodging in the dead of night, the innkeeper Anselmo is mysteriously absent and his wife extremely agitated at their appearance. The next morning, when Tejada slogs his way to the station, he is informed that his predecessor, Lt. Calero, had been murdered by Red guerrillas. Determined to whip his lackluster cadre of five officers into shape and settle Elena into more amenable accommodations, Tejada is stymied by the insubordination of Sgt. Marquez, bedeviled by Maquis guerrillas out to avenge the results of 1939, and faced with innkeeper Anselmo's murder, mountain bandits and a missing cache of dynamite, and Elena's premature labor. The resolution leaves Tejada-sated by political disagreements with nationalists, loyalists, guerrillas, communists, and his wife-yearning for a discharge from the Guardia. Equal parts history lesson and crime novel, displaying both offhand cruelty and welcome depth.
Praise for The Watcher in the Pine
“The hostilities are never over in the mournful mysteries that Rebecca Pawel sets in the devastated cities of Spain in the aftermath of the civil war . . . Pawel frames the complex ethical issues she raises in the divided loyalties of her series hero . . . and his wife, Elena, whose sympathies are entirely with the Republican cause. Until the family wounds are healed, Pawel argues, the war will never end.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Part history lesson, part whodunit, this story is rich in landscape and political detail.”
“The Edgar-winning author tells her story in spare prose, befitting the bleakness of the political and physical landscape . . . The richness of historical detail and the loving but uneasy relationship between Tejada and Elena offer their own rewards to the reader.”
—The Denver Post
“Pawel—winner of an Edgar for the series debut, Death of a Nationalist—has managed to capture the Spanish Civil War period in thrilling detail . . . Her writing is thoughtful for thoughtful readers. Her understanding of the times of which she writes, the fractured loyalties and seething vengeances, is eclipsed only be her insights into the human heart.”
—The Plain Dealer
“A fabulous historical whodunit.”
—Midwest Book Review
“Equal parts history lesson and crime novel, displaying both offhand cruelty and welcome depth.”