Their existence, rather than seen as a miracle, shook the small East Texas town to its rotten core, stitched together by racism, greed, multiple murders, and the naked need for power. “They’ll tell you what it’s like with birds and such,” warns Millie, the matriarch of the black family, caring for Daniel in the months following her rescue, until a warmer, more fanatical head prevails. Would be “That they keep to themselves.”
Daniels, describing as a young man upon his return to the city a decade later, is a winning mix of curiosity, hesitation and gloom. These traits would serve him well in keeping with the secrets he’s trying to uncover — long buried in Moon Lake — that will soon lead to a death toll.
Mario Conde, the recurring detective who returns in Leonardo Padura Transparency of Time (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 416 pp., $30), is about to turn 60, and he hates everything about it — aging bones, eroded appearance, drug-assisted libido — even more so because his partner still loves him, much to his nervousness. . Her mood deepens with the arrival of an old friend, Bobby, who is caring for a broken heart and is furious as her faithless lover has absconded with a spiritual relic, Bobby believes. That he has magical powers.
Conde is a skeptic, at least until people start dying, and the truth turns out to be strange for him. Padura, dissatisfied with the mere “Maltese Falcon” The tribute traces the story to the 13th century, with scenes where a Catalan farmer doubles as a trickster. Padura, translated here by Anna Kushner, is more successful with Conde’s hard-boiled, secretly intimidating worldview than historical material, but I admired the ambition nonetheless.
Sarah Weinman’s column comes out twice a month.