Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Richard Zimler - The Night Watchman

Chief Inspector Henrique Monroe of the Lisbon Police Department is not your usual cop. Eccentric, elliptical – and stunningly observant – his peculiar behavior at crime scenes is legendary. But his colleagues put up with it because, in the end, Monroe's the best of the best. But he has a double-sided secret. And when he's called to investigate the brutal slaying of well-connected Portuguese businessman Pedro Coutinho, it's not just the murder case that will unravel – but his own identity, too. As Monroe's investigations lead him deep into a torrid world of shady political corruption and sexual violence, the details of the case trigger memories from his childhood in rural Colorado – memories he has travelled far, and worked hard, to hide. His behavior becomes even more upsetting and inappropriate than usual, and even his family – his wife, his brother and his two young boys – start to fear for the man they thought they knew.

Comment: I saw this book at the library and since I like the author's writing, I decided to rig it home and read it. Last month I also read something by the author so I know I'll always be entertained by what this author does.

In this book the author takes us through a murder investigation in Lisbon. The main character is a police investigator who apparently suffers a double personality but the two parts of him join forces to solve the crimes. As the plot moves forward, though, it gets more and more obvious some things are just too difficult and the solutions aren't always fair. Can the narrator deal with his life issues, the need to seek justice and at the same time be the man he has always dreamed of being?

I was fascinated by the author's ability to create a story featuring Portuguese facts from years ago in a book that reads both contemporary and cultural.The author lives in the country and for me, as a Portuguese person, is always interesting to see things written by a different perspective, especially by an author who isn't from here but has known the Portuguese reality for years now and he can incorporate details quite well. Maybe I'd say he is a little bit harsh here and there about how to mention things but the reality is who hasn't when the action took place? (I mean starting around the economical crisis in 2010/2011)

It was also interesting to have a main character with what we could say is a split personality. The reasons why aren't too difficult to guess since the first person narrator informs us constantly on how his childhood was and how that affected his life and his brother's, but now his life can have a purpose thanks to this aspect of his personality. It was also quite interesting to see how it worked out, especially when he had to deal with his family and friends. I can't speak about his mechanism because it' not something I'm familiar with but I guess he coped in a believable way, if one can accept the notion without having really seeing it (movies don't really count).

The main subject however, isn't this, but the crime the narrator is investigating. I must say the theme isn't pleasant, isn't easy to swallow and the way the story ends only made me want to punch someone; the author didn't stop to think about sensibilities, the theme can seem quite raw to the public and if he wanted to aim for shock, he made it. I confess I expected something more on the lines of a romance but he chose to go realistic instead so, while the plot remains too raw it's also a wake up call and this can be either seen as good or bad, depending on how one looks at it.

I enjoyed several details about Lisbon, about the look a foreigner can have looking at it, I liked the different characters, especially the ones closer to the investigator. There is a lot to appreciate in this author's work but this is not a perfect book, I'd certainly change some details but on the other hand, maybe that's just my personal impression and not a real issue.
For all purposes, I'd recommend it but the fictional aspects can be challenging to think about.
Grade: 8/10

No comments:

Post a Comment