BOOK REVIEW: THE SILENCE OF THE WHITE CITY BY EVA GARCÍA SÀENZ

The Silence of the White City

White City Trilogy, Book 1
by Eva García Sáenz, translated by Nick Caistor
Publication date: July 28, 2020

Goodreads synopsis:

A madman is holding Vitoria hostage, killing its citizens in brutal ways and staging the bodies. The city’s only hope is a brilliant detective struggling to battle his own demons.

Inspector Unai López de Ayala, known as “Kraken”, is charged with investigating a series of ritualistic murders. The killings are eerily similar to ones that terrorized the citizens of Vitoria twenty years earlier. But back then, police were sure they had discovered the killer, a prestigious archaeologist who is currently in jail. Now Kraken must race to determine whether the killer had an accomplice or if the wrong man has been incarcerated for two decades. This fast-paced, unrelenting thriller weaves in and out of the mythology and legends of the Basque country as it hurtles to its shocking conclusion.

Personal review:

Fantastic and fascinating. Intricate and immersive. I loved this book, without a doubt. This came highly recommended by Abby of Crime By The Book and it delivered. I really enjoyed and appreciated the Spanish and Basque culture, history, folklore, and mythology embedded throughout the story. I had fun defining and building a glossary of the unfamiliar Spanish and historical terms sprinkled throughout. I loved spending time researching and learning about the various days of celebrations that drive the plot of the story. It was fun to stop mid paragraph and look up a term and either hear the pronunciation or flip through a couple images e.g. before reading this book I definitely didn’t know what a dolmen was, and now I know.

Glossary:

acolyte noun // a person assisting the celebrant in a religious service or procession

akimbo adverb // with hands on the hips and elbows turned outward

anthophila noun // scientific term for bee

apoplectic adjective // overcome with anger; extremely indignant

avarice noun // extreme greed for wealth or material gain

brachycephalic adjective // having a relatively broad, short skull (usually with the breadth at least 80 percent of the length)

conciliatory adjective // intended or likely to placate or pacify

corbel noun // a projection jutting out from a wall to support a structure above it

corbel verb // support (a structure) on corbels

cuadrilla noun // gang; a matador’s team of assistants, including picadors and banderilleros

dolmen noun // a megalithic tomb with a large flat stone laid on upright ones, found chiefly in Britain and France

esplanade noun // a long, open, level area, typically beside the sea, along which people may walk for pleasure

esoteric adjective // intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest

eguzkilore noun // flower of the sun in Basque (eguzki = sun and lore = flower)

garrote verb // kill (someone) by strangulation, typically with an iron collar or a length of wire or cord

gravid adjective // pregnant; carrying eggs or young; full of meaning or a specified quality

hermetic adjective // (of a seal or closure) complete and airtight; relating to an ancient occult tradition encompassing alchemy, astrology, and theosophy

Isotta Fraschini proper noun //  Italian luxury car manufacturer, also producing trucks, as well as engines for marine and aviation use; founded in Milan, Italy, in 1900

scabrous adjective // rough and covered with, or as if with, scabs; indecent; salacious

torpor noun // a state of physical or mental inactivity; lethargy

Days of Celebration in Basque and Spanish Culture:

Celedón – a man wearing a floppy beret who represents the Álavan people, descends from the tower of San Miguel Archangel Church on his umbrella and crosses the sky via a system of pulleys. This event is followed by the lighting of the chupinazo rocket signals the start of las Fiestas de la Virgen Blanca

La Fiesta de la Virgen Blanca – beginning in 1884 and held on August 5th, but the celebrations begin the day before on August 4th and end on August 9th, honoring the patron saint of the city, and features a program of special events, activities and free open-air concerts. The actual festivity starts at six in the afternoon with the chupinazo and Celedón’s descent. Once Celedón reaches the balcony of the Church of San Miquel, Celedón greets the crowds below and wishes everyone a happy celebration
Rove.me article linked here

El Dia de la Blusa – festival held on July 25th, also known as “garlic day”. The morning festivities begin with the long-held tradition of buying a string of garlic, which people wear around their necks on the way home. Garlic day is a kind of prelude to the festivals of the Patron Saint of the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the festival of the Virgen Blanca (White Virgin), held on August 4th through 9th
Basque Country Tourism article linked here

El Dia de Santiago – annual Feast of Saint James takes place in Santiago de Compostela on July 25th and is a public holiday in Galicia. The celebration begins the evening before with the Fuegos del Apóstol (“Apostle’s Fire”) at midnight, a special fireworks show that takes place near the St. James Cathedral. On Día de Santiago, many devoted Christians and admirers of the patron saint walk the St. James hiking trail in Spain. This trail is called the Camino de Santiago (“Way of St. James”), and this is considered a lugar de peregrinación (“place of pilgrimage”), leading to Santiago de Compostela.
Spanishpod101 article linked here
Spanish Fiestas article linked here

The Water Rituals

White City Trilogy, Book 2
by Eva García Sáenz
Publication date: March 30, 2021

Goodreads synopsis:

How do you unmask a killer who’s spent years preparing to hunt you down?

A pregnant woman has been murdered in a brutal, ritualistic way: burned, hung, and then placed upside down in a Bronze Age cauldron. When Unai “Kraken” Lopez de Ayala discovers the victim is his first love, Ana Belén Liaño, memories of their time together come flooding back, and with them reminders of a dark secret long buried. Then the killer strikes again, enacting the same ritual against a second expectant parent. Kraken knows he must confront his past in order to unmask this fiend. And there’s no time to waste, because Deputy Superintendent Díaz de Salvatierra has just found out she’s carrying a child. And the father could very well be Kraken himself…

Additional Resources:
1 | Behind The Basques: The Most Misunderstood Culture in Europe
Orge Castellano article linked here

2 | AUTHOR Q&A: EVA GARCÍA SÁENZ, AUTHOR OF THE SILENCE OF THE WHITE CITY
Crime by the Book article linked here

3 | BOOK REVIEW: THE SILENCE OF THE WHITE CITY BY EVA GARCÍA SÁENZ
Crime by the Book article linked here

Until tomorrow, Meryn


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