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Ho, Ho, Ho, and a Bottle of Fun

For the fifth time, Señor Pérez-Reverte, the Spanish novelist and international journalist, has presented “a novel of suspense” that adheres to his formula, and this may be his best yet, or at least his longest.  The length of this ironic romance is significant; since the author works within a narrow scope and with a small cast of characters (four or five rogues are the ones that count), he is therefore compelled to build up his text with discursive elaboration and imaginative extensions.  Like Raymond Chandler, this Hispanic master could fairly claim that he “writes writing,” and again like Chandler, he does quite a job of it.

Because the field is restricted, the final revelation must be somewhat predictable, for on this checker board, there is only one move left at the end.  But I register no complaint, for there are few living writers to whom I unconsciously plead, “Don’t stop!” as they cast their spell.  Pérez-Reverte is some kind of magician, all right, but that does not mean that his technique cannot be analyzed.  In recognition of, and as a punishment for, his success, he has already been announced as a special topic at the next convention of the Modern Language Association, so we must proceed now to indicate something about his formulaic procedures before he is tarred with the brush of the Male Gaze in a Discourse of Power and the Subversive...

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