‘A fascinating and promising premise peters out into something slightly more bland and one-dimensional’ – All is Silence by Manuel Rivas

aisbmrAll is Silence begins as a subtle, poetic account of Fins, Brinco, and the girl they both pine for, Lena. In their early teenage years, the three are close friends who play together in the town of Noitia, often focusing their games on the detritus that the sea washes up onto their local beach. Tobacco, clothes, and even mannequins can be found on their shores, and the town operates a first come first served policy which often sees a race to the sand. This early section might seem a little slow, but the growing tension, and the burgeoning relationship between Fins and Lena, is pitched so perfectly that the reader will coast through it.

When the sea coughs up a few crates of whisky, the story takes a turn. Thinking that they’ve found a goldmine, the three young friends are excited about their haul. This excitement is quickly dampened when they are confronted by local gangster Mariscal, and they realise not everything is as first come first served as they have been led to believe. Although this encounter with Mariscal is short, it is one that will shape the rest of their lives.

Not long after this event, a tragic accident forces Fins to move away. His relationship with Lena ends before it can really begin. Years later, he returns to Noitia as a police officer. His remit is to investigate the local smuggling ring, run by Mariscal, and helped along by the friends Fins once based his life around. Unfortunately, the novel somewhat loses its way at this point. What began as a poignant and measured account of an unusual adolescence, becomes a more bog standard story of organised crime, warring criminals, corruption, and prostitutes. The fact that Brinco has a child with Lena by the time Fins returns suggests that the novels closing conflicts will resolve around that, and although that does come into it, it is too late and too slight to rescue a floundering conclusion.

Any Cop?:  There are real moments of beauty in All is Silence, and the prose cannot but be faulted, but unfortunately a fascinating and promising premise peters out into something slightly more bland and one-dimensional.


Fran Slater


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