Book Review: Domingo Villar – Death On A Galician Shore

Does location matter in a thriller? The tension may not depend completely on it. While the setting, whether it’s a forest, a cityscape, or anywhere else, can influence the narrative’s suspense, the geographical location itself might not. An exciting story can take place anywhere.

Does that mean the location matters less in a literary thriller? Not for me. I find myself immersing better in a book when the setting intrigues me. Luckily, that’s precisely the case with this book. Death On A Galician Shore by Domingo Villar takes place in Galicia.

A Literary Thriller Set in Galicia

I like it, a novel set in Galicia. In this story, the region definitely adds value to the narrative. The author, Domingo Villar, is from Galicia and excels in portraying the area.

The protagonist of the story, Inspector Leo Caldas, has an assistant named Rafael Estévez. This assistant isn’t from Galicia. That offers Villar the opportunity to showcase the region’s typical customs and the locals’ character through his personality. The myth that Galicians are not so smart and unwilling to answer (or provide) solutions recurs frequently in conversations.

Where the story takes places: From Vigo to Panxón

Beyond culture and character, Villar vividly describes Galicia’s landscape in his literary thriller. The rugged coast, the storms that rage, the exceptional cliffs, but also the beauty emerging from this tumultuous sea. The delightful seafood, especially the percebes, harvested at the risk of the locals’ lives, are extensively detailed in the book.

The story unfolds in the Rias Baixas, around Vigo. In the city itself the police station is located, where the protagonist conducts his radio show, and frequents bars. Part of the story also takes place in the fishing village of Panxón. A village beautifully described as an authentic fishing village. It’s the kind of place that smells (or stinks) of fish and remains deserted during the day—an authentic describtion, not as portrayed in tourist brochures.
Lastly, the story takes place at Leo Caldas’s father’s vineyard, approximately situated near A Guarda, the southwesternmost point of Spain, bordering Portugal.

For those fond of Galicia or curious about the region, reading this book is undoubtedly recommended. But how is the book itself?

The Story of Death On A Galician Shore

For the sake of completeness, here’s an introduction to the story’s content. Find below the synopsis on the back of the book:

“One misty autumn dawn in a quiet fishing port in northwest Spain, the body of a sailor washes up in the harbour. Detective Inspector Leo Caldas is called in from police headquarters in the nearby city of Vigo to sign off on what appears to be a suicide. But details soon come to light that turn this routine matter into a complex murder investigation. Finding out the truth is not easy when the villagers are so suspicious of outsiders. As Caldas delves into the maritime life of the village, he uncovers a disturbing decade-old case of a shipwreck and two mysterious disappearances. ‘Death on a Galician Shore’ is a chilling story of violence, blackmail, and revenge that has enthralled readers across Europe…”

Final Verdict
***** for the portrayal of Galicia, its surroundings, culture, and particularly the character of its people.
*** for the story. Engaging, but not a top-tier thriller. A solid crime novel.

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