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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Mystery of
the Enchanted Crypt

Eduardo Mendoza

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To purchase The Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt

Title: The Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt
Author: Eduardo Mendoza
Genre: Novel
Written: 1979 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 192 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt - US
El misterio de la cripta embrujada - US
The Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt - UK
The Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt - Canada
The Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt - India
Le mystère de la crypte ensorcelée - France
Das Geheimnis der verhexten Krypta - Deutschland
El misterio de la cripta embrujada - España
  • Spanish title: El misterio de la cripta embrujada
  • Translated by Nicholas Caistor

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Our Assessment:

B : amusing, deceptively lighthearted (but also fairly insubstantial) mystery

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Monde . 24/7/2009 Nathalie Grivot
Die Zeit A 23/11/1990 Werner Zeller

  From the Reviews:
  • "Verglichen mit dem umfänglichen Barcelona-Epos ist Das Geheimnis der Krypta eine Etüde. Und doch bietet Eduardo Mendoza darin vieles in einem: Krimi, Satire, psychologische Gesellschaftskomödie, sogar eine (winzige) Lovestory und, nicht zu vergessen, einen Entwicklungsroman (.....) Selten hat der Leser sich zwischen vertrackten Weitschweifigkeiten und knappen Dialogen, zwischen bedeutsamem Tiefsinn und nicht minder zwerchfellerschütternden Beiläufigkeiten, zwischen blanker Unterhaltung und blanker Literatur so angenehm wenig entscheiden müssen." - Werner Zeller, Die Zeit

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:

       The narrator of The Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt doesn't even bother giving his name, acknowledging (a bit coyly):

my real, complete name is only to be found in the infallible police archives, while on a daily basis I am usually referred to as 'toe-rag', 'rat', 'piece of shit', 'poofter' and other descriptions so various and abundant they prove not only the boundless creativity of the human mind but the inexhaustible riches of our language.
       He identifies himself as -- and seems commonly to be considered: "a lunatic, rogue, criminal and a person almost totally lacking any education or culture", and he's spent the past five years in a Barcelona loony bin. Now, however, anno 1977, Inspector Flores of the Criminal Investigation Department, who regularly arrested him before he was sent away, seems to be offering him freedom in exchange for some investigative help in the important case he's currently working on. Just like six years earlier, a girl has disappeared from the local San Gervasio boarding school, run by Lazarist nuns; the case back then remained something of a mystery (the girl returned just as mysteriously as she had disappeared), but Flores suspects a connection to the present-day situation.
       While Flores wants the narrator's help, he doesn't put much effort into making it easy for him, kicking him to the curb, as it were, so that the newly-released man finds that, while outside the asylum and ostensibly free, he has:
no friends, money or place to live, and had only the clothes I was standing up in, to whit a filthy, worn hospital gown.
       Things don't improve much -- and, unable to shower, his smell grows increasingly offensive -- but he does get on the case -- nudged towards taking it seriously when a dead man lands on what amounts to his doorstep (and, when he flees the scene, keeps turning up just ahead of him ...).
       The mystery in The Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt isn't even that bad a concept, but it takes a backseat to and is a bit buried by the narrator's investigation -- and his lively narrative. A happy-go-lucky kind of fellow, he isn't easily fazed by much and is pretty quick with his wits (and fingers, and feet). Self-preservation does motivate him -- he does notice that he's gotten himself into something pretty deep -- but he doesn't seem too worried about how thing might turn out for him.
       Mendoza's appealing style make for an entertaining if very light-seeming tale. It is very much of its time -- written in 1979, and with the two crimes bridging the pre- and post-Franco eras in Spain -- and Mendoza's light touch obviously is influenced by the fact that he found himself able to write what just a few years earlier he couldn't have, with him having his fun with that but not testing any boundaries too seriously yet. Still, it is amusing, as Flores speaks of: "the alacrity that characterised the forces of order in the pre-post-Franco era" when he discusses the 1971 investigation, or when the narrator makes good an escape by taking advantage of the police's reflexive actions (as they had: "obviously not yet become accustomed to the political liberalisation taking place in Spain since the death of the Generalissimo", at least when confronted with trade union slogans)
       Social class issues, an omnipresent police, a strong Church: Mendoza packs a surprising amount in. And despite his rank smell (which practically wafts from the pages), the narrator is quite the charmer, an unlikely and not very heroic hero, but with good instincts and quite the talent for getting himself out of (and, admittedly, into) sticky situations, taking the reader along for a strange, bumbling, but quite enjoyable ride.
       The Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt is certainly good, quick fun -- it's 'thin' in the best possible way --, though harder-core mystery-fans might want a bit more meat to (and focus on) the actual crime(s).
       (Note that this is the first in a series of novels featuring this protagonist, but Mendoza has dosed them carefully -- the fourth only appeared in 2012.)

- M.A.Orthofer, 13 September 2013

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The Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt: Reviews: Eduardo Mendoza: Other books by Eduardo Mendoza under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Eduardo Mendoza Garriga was born in 1943.

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© 2013-2019 the complete review

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