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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Blood Crime

Sebastià Alzamora

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To purchase Blood Crime

Title: Blood Crime
Author: Sebastià Alzamora
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 288 pages
Original in: Catalan
Availability: Blood Crime - US
Blood Crime - UK
Blood Crime - Canada
Memento mori - France
Fatto di sangue - Italia
Crim de sang - España (Catalán)
  • Catalan title: Crim de sang
  • Translated by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent

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Our Assessment:

B- : promising, but falters

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 30/10/2016 Terrence Rafferty
Publishers Weekly . 18/7/2016 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "By the end of this eventful but consciously open-ended story, you realize that the vampire doesn’t really need to draw any more blood for this to be a horror novel. All he has to do is be a metaphor (.....) Blood Crime (beautifully translated from the Catalan by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent) has a sort of concentrated power that’s rare in horror novels. It’s akin to poetry." - Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Alzamora deftly balances a swiftly moving, multithreaded plot set firmly in a historical context with a transcendent, nearly timeless exploration of the dark, violent nature of humanity and the vain search for God’s mercy, and, in doing so, creatively fulfills the challenge of reinventing gothic horror for a modern age." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Blood Crime begins with a first-person account by ... a vampire, describing his latest kills, a priest in Civil War-torn 1936 Barcelona, and a young boy who had the misfortune of being in the vicinity. The vampire feels right at home in the Barcelona of these times, "where an evil of uncommon brutality thrives and has taken possession of men in the most absolute of terms", and the hunting for fresh blood is easy and good. Nevertheless, his presence doesn't entirely escape notice: the priest's death has those unusual hallmarks that point to it being a vampire's work. But in these tumultuous times proper police investigation is also a rarity -- and the identity of the victim, a priest in hiding, complicates matters too.
       This brief introductory section and a few other short ones are in the first person, but the bulk of the novel is omnisciently narrated -- though for all that omniscience the identity of the vampire is never (explicitly) revealed (arguably reasonably so, since those in the vampire's vicinity remain unaware of his true vampiric identity). Meanwhile, the story moves between several groups of people -- with the essentials eventually all coming together in a final tableau.
       Many members of the clergy were slaughtered or fled in these times, but at the beginning of Blood Crime pockets survive in Barcelona, including some Marist Brothers in hiding, more than two dozen nuns (reasonably) safely sequestered in the Capuchin Convent in the neighborhood of Sarrià, as well as Bishop Gabriel Perugorría, who has also been stowed away in the convent. The Bishop is a big fish, and he was landed by a Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI) bigwig: "a sinister man, a cripple by the name of Manuel Escorza", who had previously raided the convent -- for show -- and then pretended it had been emptied and secured by the FAI, while in fact he allowed the sisters to remain living there in secret. With his actual sister the Mother Abbess there he felt the situation was comfortably under control -- while also harboring much larger-scale (anti-clerical) plans.
       [The Manuel Escorza del Val of the novel is, in fact an historical polio-stricken figure, but Blood Crime is only limitedly an historical novel, suggesting the horrific extent of the Red Terror but (even leaving vampires aside) not quite playing matters out as they did in real life; so also Manuel Escorza's fate was a different one (as he went into exile in Chile in 1939, where he died in 1968).]
       The youngest of the nuns in the convent is Sister Concepció, a thirteen-year-old girl, born to a prosperous family but whose parents had already been killed in the first days of the war -- though she remains unaware of their fate. Musically gifted, she attracts the interest of the Bishop -- apparently for her compositional and singing talents -- and he charges her with composing an original Stabat Mater, a task she futilely tries to undertake in almost complete isolation -- though the Bishop keeps a watchful eye on her (and others keep a watchful eye on the Bishop ...).
       Among the other significant figures is Superintendent Muñoz, who investigates the first murder -- and whose sin of omission (not revealing the (obvious) fact that the novel's first, elderly victim, and several of the witnesses, were priests) puts him at the mercy of Escorza, who tries to use him to further his own ambitious plan. And then there's a striking, life-size horse-automaton -- which also proves invaluable.
       Events come to a head in an ugly and messy resolution -- blood crimes indeed. Most of the pieces Alzamora has brought up do come into play, and there's a bit of excitement, but all in all it falls remarkably flat. The vampire-figure -- as vampire -- is underutilized, while little Sister Concepció's age-appropriate issues and confusion are not just literally a bloody mess. And there's also a problem of almost incidental overkill: in piling it on as he does, Alzamora takes much of the impact from the historic horrors of that time.
       The big reveal -- the identity of the vampire -- closes the book, and that's fine, but for the most part Alzamora's tale can't live up to the build-up. Heaping bodies on the scene only gets him so far, while the more abstract concepts -- including theorizing about automata; vampirism; and blood-lust -- are only half effectively used. Too often, too, the evil veers to the cartoonish -- including in the figure of Escorza. (The fact that so much that happened there in those times truly was horrific -- including much that Escorza was responsible for -- doesn't excuse Alzamora's inadequate depiction; the representation -- or even simply reporting -- of true evil is notoriously difficult, and Alzamora trips himself up here.)
       There's much here that is intriguing -- indeed, the build-up is engaging and holds a great deal of promise, from the automata-theorizing to the vampirism to the musical talents and general youthful confusion of the young girl, but ultimately Alzamora doesn't manage to utilize them particularly well.
       What begins as a promising and even exciting read falls apart at its far too ham-handed seams.

- M.A.Orthofer, 16 September 2016

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Blood Crime: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Sebastià Alzamora i Martín was born in 1972.

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© 2016-2021 the complete review

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