AUGUST SPAIN BOOK REVIEW: ‘Fatal Sunset’ by Jason Webster

In the hills above Valencia is a notorious nightclub called Sunset. When its larger-than-life owner, Jose Luis, dies suddenly, everyone assumes it was a heart attack. Perfectly understandable for a man of his age, size and lifestyle.

Meanwhile, all is not well for Max Cámara at HQ. His new boss, Rita Hernández, has it in for him and his idiosyncratic methods. He must abandon a complex investigation into home-grown extremism to check out what looks like a routine death at Sunset. But an anonymous phone call suggests otherwise…

Back in the city, Max’s journalist girlfriend, Alicia, is working on a lead that could turn out to be the story of her career. How her own investigation connects with Max’s at Sunset, and an unholy network of drug dealers, priests and shady officials protecting a dark government secret, will place both their lives in jeopardy and push everything to the very edge.


(Before I begin – I make no apology for being MIA with Spain book reviews. I didn’t see anything I wanted to read for months. Admittedly, I didn’t look too hard. If I missed something worth reading, leave me a comment)

What can I say about Max Cámara. Fatal Sunset is the sixth book in the series (I’ve reviewed the others here) and the author has decided to really mix things up this time. Fatal Sunset is longer than the previous books, which is a nice bonus, taking in a far bigger plot than in the past. 

Cámara is a Valencian cop who was in Barcelona during the last book, another was based in Albacete. This time he is back in his home city, and out in the Sierra Calderona, the mountains outside Spain, aka my favourite place on Earth and the location of three of my own books, so I was thrilled to get into this novel.

The book starts off from the point of view of the victim, and gets weird fast. Page 2 has the guy reminiscing about his childhood, watching water run along the insides of his mother’s thighs as she washes her ‘down there’ (dude! wtf). But it’s okay, because he’s a victim and is dispatched.

Off to Max Cámara himself, back at the station in Valencia, and wow, he is a changed man. Cámara used to be a likeable, pragmatic rogue, breaking all the rules (in a city/country which was so riddled it didn’t matter). But that guy seems to have withered with age. The world is changing, and at least attempting to clean house, and the women now in charge of the station want everything done properly, not rude, not disrespectful, not wasteful or illegal. Only Cámara doesn’t agree. Cámara seems to go out of his way to be difficult right from the very beginning. He’s handled some high profiles cases in the past and now has developed one hell of an ego. Congrats to the author; it would have easy to just pump out another book with the same old character traits, but Webster hasn’t taken the easy route or written a flawless character.

Cámara likes to continuously point out that he comes from a long line of anarchists, like his wonderful grandfather, and how he likes the disorder and defiance that comes with being an anarchist. Only it doesn’t work for Cámara anymore. He is middle-aged; what he learned as a kid, and was influenced by family, isn’t so important, for now he has had plenty of time to develop his own ideals; he could be a grandfather himself. Cámara isn’t aspiring to be a good anarchist to make granddaddy proud, rather he is a breed of man, breed of cop, which is dying out, and he is rebelling against everything, like an angry kid.

Fatal Sunset bounces between characters for its point of view with every chapter, with enough characters to rival a Games of Thrones book. There is Alicia, Cámara’s girlfriend (girlfriend? She’s middle-aged too. Sidekick maybe), who is, as usual, digging up conspiracies and stories but seems to achieve little, which is a shame.  As Cámara and Alicia works to solve murders and unearth conspiracies, they never work together that well. We get to hear about how she makes breakfast half-naked, or the way her thighs wrinkle when she puts on pants, but Alicia is not a strong character anymore. She has also undergone a transformation, much like Cámara; failure to adapt has also left Alicia misplaced in the world.

However, there is Carlos, the ‘bad guy’, who is digging up stuff on Alicia, and Cámara by association. Carlos is a stiff, self-inflated guy, but the trouble is, he is better at what he does than Cámara and Alicia. The ‘bad guys’ are ruthlessly efficient, where as Cámara is an old-style detective in a new world and seems to succeed with luck as much as with experience.

But the whole theme of old v. new shines through in the short-burst chapters which flick between characters. There is no denying that policing (and the world) is changing around Cámara; the days of sitting around eating paella with his buddy Torres are done. The seedy elements of Valencia, and Spain in general, gives a feeling that the place is as stale as the endless cigarettes. Webster has done a fine job in setting the tone and the vibe of everyone and everything. It’s hard to be specific without giving away the big scandals Cámara and Alicia find (no spoilers here!) but there is a sense that if Cámara didn’t spend so much thinking about himself and how he liked to be different, he could have been more successful. Sometimes it is easier to bring something down by playing by your opponent’s rules rather than your own. Cámara never really figures that out, or at least, never gives it a try. Webster has made a character you want to see succeed, but also want to ring his sweaty neck. Kudos on that score.

There was one passage that stuck out for me, pg 193

Either side of the bag strap, her breasts hung low on her chest, nipples splayed to the sides. Below, her belly was taut and firm, yet the skin sagged in small crescents beneath the navel, where he first airs of her pubis crept up, heralds of the dark silhouetted triangle of her sex. Cámara watched in awe. But for her age, and the signs of motherhood, she appeared like an embodiment of Artemis, the Moon goddess herself out hunting during the hours of night.

And this is just a sliver of the long description of the character. Really, Cámara, really? The characters in the book are all barely described, yet here Cámara is, in the countryside perving on women who run their land nudist-colony style. She could look like a goddess if only she didn’t have qualities that make women real, like age and being a parent? Really, Cámara? The constant descriptions of women as objects makes me feel uncomfortable while I read. I used to like you, Cámara, but you are practically ageing yourself out of the system with the sexism and casual homophobia. Women’s bodies are decorative features to be described for entertainment, and there are people who use words like ‘poof’, as if they were shot out of a cannon in the 50’s and landed in the 21st century by accident. Cámara is circling around a world that needs to change, whether people like it or not. The criminals are evolving, still scum, but evolving. Cámara needs to as well. Both he and Alicia are essentially good people, but this time have not done a great job with their investigations or behaviour.

Congratulations to Jason Webster for his latest installment; six novels based on one central character is no easy feat for a writer, and Webster has successfully moved the character into a new stage in his life in Fatal Sunset, rather than just churning out a book which could have just coasted on the success of previous editions. Thank you, Jason; I have not had a book in my hands that had me turning the pages this fast in a while, or thrown it in frustration at times. This book is certainly not a boring read.

If we see Cámara and Alicia for book seven, I hope they get a holiday first! Cámara needs to chill and eat rice again, but ease up on the marijuana – really, at your age, Max? Just don’t ever leave Alicia behind; a crime character with a steady relationship is rare (no rolling through women like he’s at a drive-thru for Max), and one main reason that sets Webster’s series apart from the generic crime series that are available. I have no interest in reading any crime series other than Webster’s.

SPAIN BOOK REVIEW: ‘Blood Med (Max Cámara 4)’ by Jason Webster

Blood Med

Spain is corrupt and on the brink of collapse. The king is ill, banks are closing, hospitals are in chaos, homes are lost, demonstrators riot and rightwing thugs patrol the street. The tunnels beneath the streets are at once a refuge and a source of anger. And as the blood flows Cámara roars in on his motorbike…

 Cámara is back in Valencia, with his partner Alicia and his anarchist, marijuana-growing grandfather Hilario. In the old police headquarters, the mood is tense, as the chief hunts for cuts – who will go, Cámara or his friend Torres? The two men are flung into action investigating the suicide of an ex- bank clerk and the brutal murder of a young American woman. As the city erupts around them, their case takes them into the heart of the trouble.

Photo and blurb from


Blood Med is the fourth in the Max Cámara series by Jason Webster, following on from Or the Bull Kills You, A Death in Valencia and The Anarchist Detective. The story starts in early summer Valencia, where Cámara is back at work as the Chief Inspector at the Policía Nacional, after extended leave. Living with his now-unemployed girlfriend Alicia and his grandfather Hilario, readers are instantly given an insight into Valencia and its current state.

The King of Spain is close to death, throwing a huge cloud of uncertainty over the country already on the brink of collapse. As pro-Republican supporters hit the streets, ready to reclaim the nation from its monarchy and right-wing government, Cámara is assigned the murder of a young American blogger named Amy. Thanks to cutbacks in the Jefatura, the decrepit boss, Maldonado, has pitted Cámara against his friend Torres, each given separate cases to solve. In previous times, the pair have been found working together to solve cases and eat paella, but now their separate performances will decide who keeps his job, and who loses everything.

Enter a new character, Laura Martín, the only member of the sexual violence team. The differences between Laura and Cámara are apparent; she is blunt and a stickler for rules, and for some reason Cámara continues to call her by her first name, unlike other female members in the squad. As they search for Amy’s killer, Laura is convinced Amy’s Valencian husband is the culprit, while Cámara feels there are other avenues to explore. While the unlikely pair work together to find out why an everyday girl was murdered execution-style, they quickly find there is nobody they can trust.

It is not only Cámara’s professional life that highlights the corruption and despair of living in present day Valencia. Uneasiness hangs over Cámara’s happy home with the prospect of lay-offs, Alicia has no work, and they are helping Hilario, a golden character if ever there was one. Cámara’s grandfather had a stroke (in the previous book) and has relocated from Albacete. The trio work with the homeless living in underground tunnels abandoned after money to complete the metro lines (the same which destroyed Cámara’s home in book two) dried up. People are broke and desperate. Jobs are nowhere to be found and suicide is on the rise as people are forced from their homes by the banks. The streets are filled with protesters, labelled terrorists by the ridiculous and inept regional government. The striking misery of the city attacks Cámara personally, when he is forced to hunt down medication he needs for his grandfather, as pharmacies are no longer paid by the government, leaving people powerless to care for themselves. Immigrants are being harassed, the poor have nowhere to turn, and banks are being shut corralito style so the city doesn’t go bankrupt.

Cámara’s life falls in a deep pit of anguish and torment (have tissues handy) when the realities of the cutbacks to essential services touch him in such a way that it’s hard to believe Valencian’s live such difficult lives. Despite the immense pain of living in Valencia’s dark and brutal reality, there are still deaths to be solved. As Cámara tries to find Amy’s killer and help Torres with his similar killing, a storm of evil rears its ugly head in the crevices of the city, bringing the murders and corrupt bastards which have destroyed Valencia into daylight.

The book is far removed from the previous in the series. The first two almost seem light-hearted in comparison, such is the decay of Valencia, and the third gave readers an imperative insight to Cámara’s life and family. The book needs no stretches of the imagination – it shows what a blight corruption has made on Valencia. The lack of medical supplies, the rising factions – left and right, the violent divide between the rich and poor are laid bare, in a way no other writer has even attempted to portray. Max Cámara is the one of the few characters I look forward to reading, and along with the others around him. Cámara’s girlfriend, his grandfather, those whom he works with, or meets under the city, all have strong characteristics that make you love or loathe them. Driving on Cámara’s motorbike through the streets, the feelings of both the characters and the once-noble city can easily be felt. So many books talk of sunshine, the food, the beaches, but here is a book that takes on another reality, along with the serious issues which face the region of Valencia, distinct from the rest of Spain. This book was released the same week as the abdication of King Juan Carlos, followed by the streets filled with people, calling for freedom, an eerie coincidence indeed.

There are parts of this book I didn’t enjoy, though this is no disrespect to the author. The fact that women are treated as disposable, cheap fuck-toys to hurt and kill with indifference is hard to read, but is a part of how men from certain lifestyles and values see women. The evil, vulgar and sickening behaviour of the cretins in this book could well use a trigger warning for readers who feel uncomfortable with such sexual violence, something that won’t leave my mind in a hurry. That said, the book should not be dismissed as something using sexual violence for entertainment, rather the author has wandered into territory which is reality in a world gone mad.  The book is credible in its portrayal of Valencia and its current state, as is the feeling of those who are faced with having to struggle in this environment. Readers will be desperate for the vicious thugs, from the violent right-wing Franco lovers on the street, to the other super-scum, those in Valencian power, to be brought to their knees (and worse!). Sadly, whether everyone gets what they deserve in their interlinked web of corruption, either in real life or the Cámara series, will remain to be seen.

Five stars to Blood Med. May the Max Cámara series have a long and illustrious life. I don’t read crime books very often; this is a series worth an exception. Cámara may be king, but Valencia has become a dark queen thanks to Jason Webster.