If you’re drawn to tormented detectives such as Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge, Volker Kutscher’s Gereon Rath, or Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike, all of them scarred by the trauma of war, chances are you’ll embrace British writer Matthew Carr’s Harry Pedro Lawton. A half-Irish, half-Chilean private investigator who saw horrors as a soldier in South Africa’s Boer War, Lawton’s struggles with epilepsy have forced him to switch from police duty in London to private work. He’s big, tough, and skilled, but his illness, poorly understood in 1909, has set him apart.
So he’s game when his old boss recommends him for a job that promises easy money and a trip to Spain: a British scientist and explorer, Dr. Randolph Foulkes, is presumed to have been killed in a bombing in Barcelona, and his widow wants to identify the remains and track down the woman who received £500 from her husband just before he died. What he doesn’t fully grasp when he accepts is that he’s walking into a tinderbox. Barcelona, riven by a number of political factions, is headed for chaos when the government tries to conscript reservists for a colonialist venture in Morocco. An anarchist group calls a general strike, but the leaders lose control of the protest and mayhem descends during a late-summer week that would become known as La Semana Trágica.