Set in a Spanish national park near Breda in Catalonia, Eugenio Fuentes ‘ Depths of the Forest deals with the brutal murder of a young artist Gloria, who has gone to a remote part to draw some cave paintings. Her boyfriend from Madrid commissions a local private detective, Ricardo Cupido, to investigate. Gloria has a complicated private life, and the park itself is the subject of a long-running land dispute with the elderly aristocrat Dona Victoria and her young protégé Octavio, a lawyer. The park warden does not welcome interference on his patch either.
Cupido is an engaging and well-rounded character, who believes that private detectives are those who have failed at everything else. Yet he succeeds where the police have given up, due to manpower shortages, and the belief that the killings are random. Cupido alone has both the local networks and the patience to untangle the various motivations. The author uses multiple character viewpoints so that the reader has a better knowledge than the detective for the majority of the novel, and the pace is well-maintained despite internal dialogues that continue over several pages without a break.
However, for me this dwelt too much on animal cruelty. I’m aware that different attitudes prevail in different cultures, and that the author was trying to portray the contrast between city and country attitudes: Cupido “mused on the fear that everything to do with the country provokes”. Even so, the revulsion provoked by animal suffering does not leave the reader in a hurry to repeat the experience.