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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


La dama número trece

José Carlos Somoza

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Title: La dama número trece
Author: José Carlos Somoza
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003
Length: 454 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: La dama número trece - US
La Dame n° 13 - France
Die dreizehnte Dame - Deutschland
  • La dama número trece has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B- : long and too super-natural

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       La dama número trece has something of a nice premise in the idea that poets are (and always have been) inspired (or haunted) by a group of muses, a dozen (or thirteen) ghostly women who are responsible for the truly great works of poetry we know.. Unfortunately, Somoza gets carried away with the weird (and evil) ways of these creatures, rather than focussing on the poetic link.
       The central figure in the novel is Salmón Rulfo, who has lost his job as a lecturer at the local university (his specialty: poetry, of course) -- and his girlfriend, Beatriz, who is dead. He begins having some terrible nightmares, a bloody vision of a brutal murder -- and it turns out it's a crime that actually happened. Salmón's visions include details that he couldn't have picked up just from the media reports, either.
       Salmón is not the only one drawn to the scene of the crime: Raquel, a young Hungarian prostitute with a big secret, is similarly possessed by what happened here. The two of the visit the scene of the crime and stumble on something that the muse-witches desperately want.
       One of Salmón's friends, César Sauceda, tries to help him get to the bottom of things, remembering a university colleague who seemed to be interested in some such weird idea. As they find out soon enough, bad things happened to him (and bad things happen to Sauceda too). Only Salmón and Raquel are somewhat protected -- but only because they have something the witches want.
       The poet-inspiring group, a coven of muses who can use words to dreadful and great effect, are a really nasty group, but there is also some inner dissent at the root of their problems. Still, it's hard for Salmón and Raquel to figure out how to get out of this situation: as they've seen, the group leaves no witnesses.
       The power of words is awesome in this book, and occasionally Somoza uses this to good effect. The idea as a whole, however, feels hastily and clumsily put together, Somoza trying to do too much -- and generally doing far too little. Other than some of the horrors they're capable of inflicting, the bunch isn't that impressive. Often, it feels Somoza is making it up on the fly, leaving a fairly convoluted and over-populated story.
       A decent basic idea, but a pretty messy end-result.

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La dama número trece: Reviews: Other books by José Carlos Somoza under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       José Carlos Somoza was born in Cuba in 1959 and now lives in Spain.

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© 2006-2011 the complete review

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