Review: Antonio Hill – The Good Suicides

I missed out commenting on the plaudits that were heaped upon Antonio Hill’s first book The Summer of the Dead Toys. I was living Antonio Hillabroad when it came out and it was impossible to get my hands on a copy. However, I was intrigued enough to read Hill’s follow-up book, The Good Suicides, and, with some reservations, I thought it an unusual and dark read.

A man kills his family and then commits suicide. The police record it as a case of domestic tragedy until an unrelated woman kills herself by throwing herself in front of a train. The connection is a team building event that took place for senior staff at Alemany Cosmetics.  Each member of the party has received a photo from an anonymous sender showing dead dogs hanging from a tree. Something is compelling the employees to commit suicide and the race is on to find the perpetrator. The case is investigated by Inspector Hector Salgado whose wife disappeared the previous year. A fellow officer tries to unpick that mystery without alerting Salgado to the investigation.

The premise of this book is excellent. Anyone who has ever been on a team building event knows how claustrophobic and unnatural the environment is. For most, it is a relief when the event has finished and therefore a story based on the assumption that something devastating took place that can’t be forgotten carries a strong emotional charge. And the book starts out well. We get the violent and perplexing murder of a young family and the emerging links with the cosmetic company. The problem is that the narrative is very fragmented. Interspersed with the investigation are scenes with a variety of personnel at the Alemany Cosmetics. I’m not sure that the narrative needed so many points of view which served to decrease the dramatic tension of what was an interesting story. A certain amount of the narrative was given over to the relook at Ruth Salgado’s disappearance. This, I thought, worked much better and is a poignant story of a woman who has decided to take control of her direction in life, only to have it brutally snatched away from her.

The writing (and translation by Laura McGloughlin) is excellent and this is what stands out in what I found to be a patchy read. The front end of the book is clearly stronger than its conclusion. I liked the dark depiction of the corporate world with its disparate personalities and the story has plenty of tragic potential. I’m inclined to go and read The Summer of Dead Toys to see how it compares as I can see how the quality of the writers prose could win over fans.

Thanks to Transworld for my copy of the book.

17 thoughts on “Review: Antonio Hill – The Good Suicides

  1. kathy d.

    Too much on my plate, too, but I was curious about Hill’s first book, which wasn’t easily available over here. I may wait until I read the review of that book.


  2. This might be one I look to the library for thanks Sarah – I did like his first book enough to give it a go though. I have wanted to kill myself while at a team building event more than once so I can certainly appreciate the premise 🙂 thankfully in these austerity times they don’t seem to be happening any more in my neck of the woods


  3. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – I know just what you mean about those team-building events. They are indeed enough to ratchet up the suspense level – a lot. It sounds like this story has a fascinating premise and you’ve done, as ever, an excellent review. I may look for this one…


  4. I really, really liked The Summer of Dead Toys (US release date is next week), but it sounds like this one is not as good. I hope you get a chance to read the first book, Sarah.


  5. I am with you on the team building thing. My husband and I used to work for the same company, and they had several of those events in the many years we were there, and they were a complete waste of time, pointless, I could go on and on. So the premise of the book is definitely interesting. I can put the book safely on my “someday” list because even the first one isn’t available here yet. But one of these years it will show up at the wonderful September book sale.


  6. Pingback: The Best of June’s Reading | crimepieces

  7. Pingback: The Good Suicides by Antonio Hill | Ms. Wordopolis Reads

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