Accompanied by his best friend, ex-DCI Charlie Woodend, he relives his days as a police inspector; a militiaman caught up in the hopeless struggle to defeat Franco’s army; and a political prisoner working in brutal conditions to build a lasting monument to fascism.
Death of a Matador is a fascinating tale that immerses the reader in the blood-soaked realities of the Spanish Civil War and the driving forces of contemporary Spanish culture. It is bound to appeal to the many fans of Paco Ruiz and Charlie Woodend, to anyone interested in modern history, and to all who enjoy fine detective stories.
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The Inspector Ruiz Mysteries
(James Garcia Woods is a pen name of Alan Rustage, who also writes as Sally Spencer)
This series is set against the background of Spain's Civil War. A police inspector and gifted detective, Paco Ruiz finds that his dedication to finding the truth can be very dangerous...
A Murder of No Consequence (Kindle edition 2013, originally published in hardback in 1999 by Robert Hale, coming soon as a paperback)
Inspector Paco Ruiz realises that as Spain slides towards Civil War, murder on the streets of Madrid is passing largely unnoticed. But, as the police detective assigned to investigate the murder of a young woman in Retiro Park, he becomes obsessed with discovering the truth, whatever the danger.
The General's Dog (Kindle edition 2013, originally published in hardback in 1999 by Robert Hale) is the second in the Inspector Ruiz series. In the mountains above Madrid, in July 1936, Inspector Paco Ruiz stands before a Nationalist firing squad thinking his last moment has come. But just before the order to shoot he is reprieved – because he is needed to solve a murder – of a dog! Detection is difficult and dangerous – but if he succeeds, what then?
The Fifth Column (Originally published in paperback in 2002 by Noche Flug, now available on Kindle) The murder of an American member of the International Brigade training in a village deep in the heart of Republican Spain has implications that soon stretch far beyond a single death. A fighting unit that is vital to the defence of Madrid is slowly disintegrating. And so it is that Paco Ruiz is once more called upon to revert to his pre-war role as homicide detective – a job he does not relish!
Death of a Matador (Lume Books (2022)) is the fourth in the Inspector Ruiz series.
Accompanied by his best friend, ex-DCI Charlie Woodend, he relives his days as a police inspector; a militiaman caught up in the hopeless struggle to defeat Franco’s army; and a political prisoner working in brutal conditions to build a lasting monument to fascism. But more painful than any of this are the memories of the investigation he conducted into the murder of Faustino, his boyhood friend - better known as El Gitano, the most famous matador in Spain.
A Murder of No Consequence (Kindle)
In the political turmoil of July 1936, murder on the streets of Madrid has become so commonplace that it passes largely unnoticed. But for Inspector Paco Ruiz, the death of a young woman in Retiro Park has a significance that even he does not fully understand.
Battling against official hostility and attempts on his own life, Paco finds himself being pulled deeper and deeper into a dark web of lies and treachery.
As well as providing a thrilling and intriguing mystery, A Murder of No Consequence paints a vivid picture of a society - and a way of life - on the verge of collapse.
"Madrid, that summer, was a city suffocating under a blanket of heat and a dark cloud of fear. Armed gangs roamed the streets like packs of rabid dogs. Shots cut through the thick night air, the rattle of machine-gun bullets punctuated the usual afternoon calm. Anarchists shot fascists, socialist killed communists. In the first week of July alone, eleven young men were murdered for their political beliefs. And the Minister of the Interior sat in his office on the Puerta del Sol, and let it happen..."
The General's Dog
The mountains above Madrid, July 1936. Inspector Paco Ruiz stands before a Nationalist firing squad thinking his last moment has come.
But just before the order to shoot he is reprieved by the machiavellian Major Gómez. Gómez explains that someone has shot the general's dog, and it will take an experienced detective to get to the bottom of it.
Paco is outraged. When human life is worth so little, he refuses to dignify the death of an animal with an investigation.
But Gómez holds something which Paco values more than his own life, and the detective realizes he has no choice but to cooperate.
Despite himself, the case begins to intrigue Paco, but even he cannot guess that two people will be murdered before he discovers the real reason the dog had to die.
Can he save himself and Cindy, his American girlfriend, from the enemy - and even from his own side?
This cover illustration is a watercolour by "Sim" painted in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. Reproduced by courtesy of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, New York, NY.
The Fifth Column
The murder of an American member of the International Brigade training in a village deep in the heart of Republican Spain has implications which soon stretch far beyond a single death. A fighting unit that is vital to the defence of Madrid is slowly disintegrating.
And so it is that Paco Ruiz is once more called upon to revert to his pre-war role as homicide detective.
It is not a role he relishes. He has little idea of how to deal with these people from a foreign land whose culture he does not even begin to understand. And even some of the locals seem less than willing to co-operate.
Why do some of the peasants seem glad the brigadista who came to defend them is dead? Why does the Lincoln's commander insist that the murderer must have come from outside the village, when it is obvious to Paco that he did not?
And how great is the danger that before the case is over Paco will lose Cindy Walker - the woman he loves - to her old college professor?
As the clock relentlessly ticks away, Paco struggles with one of the most complex cases of his career, never realising that he too, has been marked for death.
"The Fifth Column is set in San Antonio de la Jara, a small village near Albacete, where the Abraham Lincoln Brigade rests and prepares to face the fascists once again. It is a setting made to order for a VALB aficionado. To peer down those dusty streets and hang around the Lincolns while they oiled ancient rifles, talked trade unions, or made supply runs to Albacete are pleasures to savor. The novel inhabits a place and a time so clearly realized (at least for one who was never there) that the hands that grip the page begin to smell of garlic.
In The Fifth Column Inspector Paco Ruiz, a Republican soldier, is pressed into service to solve a mystery because his past as a Madrid homicide inspector comes back to haunt him. The victim was a member of the Lincolns and suspicions threaten morale in a unit desperately needed to defend Madrid. Paco enlists his U.S. fiancée as translator and wrestles his Spanish sensibility around a series of interesting characters so deeply rooted in 1930's left wing politics that The Daily Worker echoes in their voices."
Book Reviews (The Volunteer, vol.XXV, No.3, Sept 2003), by Martha Olson Jarocki