The Invisible Guardian, a psychological crime thriller by Spanish author Dolores Redondo, is already an international bestseller so it’s about time that we get to see what the fuss is all about in the U.S. This novel has received all kinds of accolades so I had to find out what all the buzz was about. When I read the publisher’s description, I was hooked on the concept of a story that looks at where reality and superstition intertwine – and then I learned it’s Book #1 of a trilogy – Whoot! If you like police detective novels, international thrillers, psychological thrillers, or stories about small town superstitions then read on.
The only book trailer I could find for The Invisible Guardian is one produced for its Spanish publication; however, I think you’ll get a visceral impact from it even if you don’t understand Spanish.
“Forgetting is an involuntary act. The more you want to leave something behind you, the more it follows you.” William Jonas Barkley
Homicide inspector Amaia Salazar grew up in the rural Basque region of Spain but, like a lot of people, left there as soon as she could to pursue her career in a larger city. Since then she’s given that area a wide berth for many reasons, some personal and some professional. But her ability to keep her distance is about to change, much to her dismay. A teenage girl’s naked body has been found on the riverbank in Amaia’s Basque hometown and, since Amaia is familiar with the area, she’s being assigned to the case.
“’It’s not looking good, chief, the victim’s a young girl,’ Jonan consulted his notes. ‘Twelve or thirteen years old. When she didn’t arrive home by eleven last night, her parents contacted the police.’
‘A bit early to report her missing,’ observed Amaia.
‘True. It looks like she called her older brother on his mobile at about ten past eight to tell him she’d missed the bus from Arizkun.’
‘And her brother waited until eleven before saying anything?’
‘You know how it is, Aita and Ama will kill me. Please don’t tell them. I’m going to see if one of my friends’ parents will give me a lift. So he kept quiet and played on his PlayStation. At eleven, when he realized his sister still hadn’t arrived home and his mother was starting to get hysterical, he told them Ainhoa had called…A patrol found her. The officers spotted her shoes at the side of the road as they were coming around the bend.’…’No, that’s how they found them, side by side and pointing toward the road.’…
‘Where’s the girl?’
‘By the river. You have to go down that slope,’ said Jonan, pointing toward it apologetically, as if it were somehow his fault that the body was down there.”
So no big deal, right? Amaia will just have to investigate the case in her hometown. She’s a professional so it shouldn’t be an issue. It probably isn’t in her supervisor’s eyes. She has to look like the best candidate for the job since she knows the area – logical decision, right? But it’s Amaia’s worst nightmare. She literally has nightmares about her hometown, about the secrets she’s kept locked away all these years. Going back there is her worst nightmare come to life. And going back there to work on a murder case – well that falls into the just kill me now category of nightmares.
Like all small towns, the people in Amaia’s hometown would normally like to think any murder committed had to be committed by a stranger instead of someone they know and potentially call a neighbor or friend; however, her hometown has an even stranger belief about who committed this murder. You see, the town is protected by a mythological (or not) creature called a Basajaun. The Basajaun is normally an invisible guardian watching over the town; however, periodically townspeople report sightings of it or of signs that it has been near the village. They believe the Basajaun must have killed the girl.
“Ainhoa Elizasu was the second victim of the basajaun, although the press was yet to coin that name for him. That came later, when it emerged that animal hairs, scraps of skin, and unidentifiable tracks had been found around the bodies, along with evidence of some kind of macabre purification rite.”
“Basajaun. Literally, the ‘gentleman of the woods’; a mythical big, hairy monster.
Belagile. A dark, powerful woman; witch; sorceress.” Excerpt from Glossary for The Invisible Guardian
But this is the 21st century and that kind of medieval superstition is all nonsense, right? On the surface at least, Amaia doesn’t give much credibility to superstitions passed down from generation to generation. They’re just the villagers’ way of explaining the unexplainable or of soothing themselves when unimaginable horrors are visited upon them, right?
As the case unfolds and the body count rises, she’s convinced there is a serial killer lurking within this small village. But how can that be? It’s fairly easy for a serial killer to go undetected in a large city, to become invisible among the many; however, she can’t understand how a village in which everyone knows everyone else could turn a blind eye to someone so sick. And she begins to wonder, despite knowing it doesn’t make sense, could the Basajaun actually exist? Could the villagers be right or is being back in her hometown, amid horrors from her own past, causing her to lose her mind?
Amaia is vulnerable because of her past, but she is also one kick-butt heroine. That makes for a very interesting person, one I wanted to know more about. She is determined to find the killer and persists despite her doubts, her personal issues, and the constant pressures placed on her from her superiors and from the townspeople. I’m looking forward to seeing how she grows in this series’ future novels, which I hope will be made available to us in the U.S.
Dolores Redondo masterfully weaves together a tight and highly suspenseful tale that kept me biting my nails to the very end. I’ve been purposely vague about the circumstances, the hairpin turns, and the Basajaun’s legend to prevent spoilers. You need to experience how it unfolds as Amaia does to get the full impact. The translation is smooth and makes reading The Invisible Guardian effortless, so no worries there. I can’t wait to read Book #2 in the Baztan Trilogy, Legacy in the Bones, and Book #3, Offering to the Storm, when they are published in the U.S. Side note: Film rights to The Invisible Guardian have been purchased by two collaborative international film production companies, one of which won a 2013 Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
So, bottom line, there’s a really good reason The Invisible Guardian has gotten so much attention – it’s an amazing read and I recommend it for thriller fans!
Can’t wait to read it? The Invisible Guardian is available in all formats from your favorite online bookseller. Just click the link below and you can have it to read asap!
I’d love to get your comments on The Invisible Guardian, Dolores Redondo and/or her other work, and/or this review.