Katherine Armstrong has worked in publishing for over six years. She is a crime fiction Editor for an independent publishing company in London.
In Doug Johnstone’s 2013 thriller Gone Again, the main character is taking photographs of a beached whale on an Edinburgh beach. The book was published around the time that a dead whale actually washed up on an Edinburgh shore. In Blood Med, Jason Webster’s latest Max Cámara novel, the population of Spain is in shock, as its king lies ill in hospital. So what, you might ask?
Webster here follows a number of writers who seem to be able to accurately predict world events. Although the probability of a whale washing up in Scotland at the same time that a book with that particular scene in it was being published isn’t something that anyone could have predicted (although we’d all like to have had money on that), Webster’s use of his extensive background and knowledge of Spain has enabled him to write a book that is very of the moment. The Spanish King was very ill in 2013 and there has been a huge backlash against the monarchy, but it’s only recently that another minor preoccupation in the book has actually come to pass. This is the question of whether or not the king would abdicate and his son would take over. Now, just in time for publication, that has happened. I don’t know about anyone else but I’m hoping that Jason Webster can give me some lottery numbers!
There’s a great Daily Mail quote on the cover of the proof that I was sent that says that the Max Cámara series ‘does for [Spain] what Michael Dibdin did for Italy.’ There’s a lot of truth in this. Webster’s Cámara is quite Zen (as in Aurelio Zen, Dibdin’s hero) in his outlook. He’s at odds with people in his department and has just reconciled with his girlfriend. He’s also close to his grandfather, as Zen was his mother, and has a good track record in solving crime.
In Blood Med, Cámara’s career is on the line as his useless boss pits him against his friend, Torres. One of them must be let go, so the chief has assigned them two different cases to investigate and the outcome to both will affect his decision. Torres is given what seems to be a straightforward suicide while Cámara has the more complicated murder of a young American woman. As with Webster’s previous Cámara novels – Or The Bull Kills You, A Death In Valencia and The Anarchist Detective – the investigation also shines a light on the state of Spain today: the corruption, the banking crisis, unemployment and the monarchy question. Blood Med shows readers that there’s more than one dark heart in the continent.