Review: CHILD’S PLAY by Carmen Posadas

At the Barnes & Noble Review, I look at the newest novel by Spanish crime writer Carmen Posadas, an odd yet often enjoyable brew of mystery and post-modernism. Here’s how it opens:

There are two ways to approach the writing of a
mystery novel: adhere to the rules, or break them with glee. It takes a
mere three pages to discern that Child's Play, Carmen
Posadas' newest novel to be translated into English, falls into the
latter camp. In the novel's opening paragraphs Posadas introduces
Carmen O'Inns, an amateur sleuth of the Agatha Christie school (albeit
with a constant need to "confirm she was looking as attractive as
possible") as she's called to a private elementary school to ferret out
the truth of a young boy's death by drowning. But before the reader has
a chance to fall in with this familiar sort of flushed prose bordering
on the cliché, Posadas pans away and redirects our attention to her
proper protagonist: Luisa Davila, internationally bestselling mystery
writer, and potential stand-in for the author herself.

Luisa, it transpires, has her own love-hate relationship with rules and
order, especially those she makes up out of whole cloth. She is prone
to speeches about the Christie Formula of thrillerdom ("all the
characters in the plot [should approach] the detective — one by one and
alone, in order to present their version of events") or the
inexplicably named "Julio Iglesias theory" ("even something that seems
infallible or simple common sense turns out to be true, sometimes yes,
and sometimes no"). Her two brief marriages ended in divorce, her
current relationship is desultory and inconsistent and yet Luisa dubs
him the "Man of my Life," and the conception of her only child,
twelve-year-old Elba, remains a secret guarded by both shame and
indifference. Even her makeup strategy is a
battleground between control and entropy: her age of fifty-two is
"well-disguised by face creams and make-up by day, but at night, and
with three Bloody Marys inside her, things looked very different." No
wonder this figure of contradiction finds herself a semi-willing
participant in the post-modernist tale Posadas sets out to tell,
starting with Elba's enrolment in a school not unlike the one O'Inns
happens to visit in those opening pages.

  Read on for the rest.