Miami – Spanish writer and journalist Rosana Ubanell introduces readers of police procedural novels to Miami's first fictional Hispanic private detective, Nelson Montero, the leading character of "Volver a Morir" (Dying Again), a first work full of humor, irony and page-turning intrigue.
"Nelson Montero grows up in Hialeah to become the No. 1 Hispanic private eye in Miami. It's time there was one" in detective fiction, Ubanell, whose Spanish-language story was published this month by Penguin, told Efe.
"There are several authors writing in English about detectives in Miami, but they're very different," she said, since Montero "belongs to Hispanic Miami" with its "mixture of Cubans, Venezuelans, Mexicans, Spaniards, Colombians and Argentines."
One of the novel's clever angles is the special view the author, or rather the smart Cuban-American detective, gives of a "Miami unknown in literature," she said, with its "deep Hispanic roots, multicultural and vibrant.
Another aspect of the novel that the father of the gritty detective novel, Dashiell Hammett, would not disdain, are the personality traits of the leading character - a veneer of cynicism, a dose of toughness and a razor-sharp mind.
Montero is a self-made man, an acute observer of society, a lone wolf who loves Miller Beer and who "tries to protect his wounded heart with strong armor," said the writer, who has worked for many years in Brussels and Washington as a correspondent for Spanish media.
Ubanell confessed that with Nelson Montero she is bringing back the voice of her father, a "teller of tall tales," in a novel that is also a tribute to her maternal grandmother, specifically "to her proverbs," which are planted throughout the book, and fables from the writer's childhood.
In fact, the proverbs are one of the keys to the novel. Montero follows a whole series of them to uncover clues and solve the mystery.
"For me, proverbs are pure philosophy, folk wisdom, the result of the knowledge of a people. My maternal grandmother always had one ready for any occasion," she said.
With elements like humor, irony and measured touches of emotion and social criticism, the author creates a fast-paced detective story of clear, quick, rhythmic prose that has Miami as the main setting but also threads through Mexico and Argentina.
The death of a prestigious Miami veterinarian unleashes a series of events that Montero, with the help of his pal, computer hacker Teo Osorio, has to unravel. In doing so he discovers a secret that implicates several governments in the hemisphere.
"Volver a Morir" will be distributed by Penguin in Spain starting in late October, the first time the publisher launches a Spanish-language book in the land of Cervantes.