Conan Doyle+Christie=Perez-Reverte | Entertainment | The USA Print – THE USA PRINT


the ultimate problem, which arrives in bookstores next week, is the novel that would have excited Julian Symons. The British are owed a History of the detective story which has traditionally been considered the great classic in gender studies. Then they have followed good approximations of the long-awaited Paco Camarasa, Antonio Lozano and Pierre Lemaitre, among others, but Symons undoubtedly opened ground.

Symons, an extrotskyist with whom I spoke in Barcelona in 1982 when he came to present this work published by the Bruguera publishing house, established a clear difference between the British line of intellectual enigma where crime constitutes an exception in an orderly society, and the current hard boiled American in which murder is one more symptom of a confused and corrupt society. He preferred the former, and devoted quite a few pages to outlining its typologies. Among them he makes his way with undisguised pleasure in the latest novel by him, Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

⁄ ‘The Final Problem’ is presented in an apparently minor key; but it has its juice, and it is substantial

Since the beginning of Pérez-Reverte’s work, there has been a constant approach to the often reviled genders, due to personal harmony and the narrative intelligence of an ex-journalist with an interest in reaching broad audiences. The detective novel, the espionage novel and the historical novel have given him coverage to develop many of the stories that he was vitally interested in explaining. In his recent career, two works of a historical nature stand out in particular, Fire line (2020), set in the Spanish Civil War, and Revolution (2022), about the Mexican vicissitudes of Villa and Zapata, ambitious larger works that have alternated with others of a lighter depth at an annual rate.

Cover of ‘The final problem’, whose plot is set in the year 1960

the ultimate problem It is presented in an apparently minor key, like a diversion. But it has its juice, and it is substantial. It is a very metaliterary story that dives into the corpus of that British line of the detective genre (as The dumas club, that established the novelist internationally, did so in the extensive production of the creator of The Three Musketeersa genre in itself).

And at the same time, homage is paid here to the cinema of the golden age of Hollywood and the London studios, with whose stars the protagonist was closely related, and to the atmospheres and style of the sophisticated travelers of the 50s and 60s, which already inspired part of the from the pages of The tango of the old guard .

⁄ Set in 1960, contains nods to the golden Hollywood and sophisticated travelers of the time

Faliraki beach in Corfu, with the island of Vido in the background.

Karl F. Schofmann/GETTY

Nine characters are isolated in a hotel on a Greek island, near Corfu, as a result of a storm. The narrator is the already decadent actor Hopalong (Ormond) Basil, a transcript of Basil Rathbone, the most famous film interpreter of Sherlock Holmes. Around him the film producer Pietro Malerba and the soprano Najat Farjallah; British tourists Edith Mander and Vesper Dundas; the Spanish author of newsstand novels Paco Foxá; the German couple Hans and Renata Klemman; the physician Dr. Karabin; the owner Mrs. Auslander and the staff of the small establishment: Evangelia, Gerard and Spiros.

On page 32 the first body is discovered in a beach pavilion which, according to tradition, is locked from the inside. After some hesitation among the guests, and since the Corfu police cannot arrive due to bad weather, Basil is left in charge of the investigation: after so many years playing the hero of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it is assumed that some of his detective skills must have remained.

⁄ The novelist’s tricks: “There is only one effective method: conceal the essential facts”

And with the investigation underway, we will see some more crime while Basil and Foxá, turned into their ephemeral Watson, address and discuss key themes of the genre, from the three classic mysteries: “who is the culprit, how did he do it and why ”. And from there the value of the deduction; the ways of solving the enigma of the locked room, “the trickiest”, and that of the murderer in a limited group, both so dear to Agatha Christie. The archetypal role of the Investigator (with a clear revertian preference for Holmes over Poirot) and that of The Woman (Irene Adler); the influence of the inquirer on the development of the facts. The criminal who plays with his pursuers; the ethical dilemma about whether it is mandatory to turn a murderer over to the law and “restore social order”. The novelist’s tricks: “There is only one effective method: to hide the essential facts.”

This playful and luminous Pérez-Reverte, with the protagonist enjoying life in a very dignified twilight after having put his season in hell behind him, provides a veritable festival for anyone who has ever enjoyed reading a detective novel in their life.

Basil Rathbone (1892-1967) was the best known interpreter of Sherlock Holmes


Arturo Perez-Reverte the ultimate problem Alfaguara 328 pages 21.06 euros


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