Fresh Meat: The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill

The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio HillThe Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill is a dark, gritty police procedural set in Barcelona (available June 18, 2013).

Inspector Héctor Salgado, a transplanted Argentine living in Barcelona, is assigned to investigate a routine accidental death: a college student has fallen from a balcony in one of Barcelona’s ritzier neighborhoods. As Salgado begins to piece together the life and world of the victim, he realizes that the death may not have been an accident at all. Héctor begins to follow a trail that will lead him deep into the underbelly of Barcelona’s high society where he’ll come face-to-face with dangerous criminals, long-buried secrets, and, of course, his own past. But Héctor thrives on pressure, and he lives for this kind of case—dark, violent, and seemingly unsolvable. 

The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill is first in a new police procedural series featuring Inspector Héctor Salgado. Translated from Spanish by the original author, it’s set in contemporary Barcelona. However, the novel’s hero is a transplant from South America, an Argentine who’s not always welcome in Spain and who offers a bit of an outsider perspective, despite his long residence in Spain. As well as Salgado, we are treated to an array of intriguing secondary characters, including Salgado’s family and friends as well as other police, who will likely be further fleshed out as the series progresses.

Salgado’s moral quandaries result from dislocations between the legal requirements of his job and his own deep emotions and his opinions on appropriate payment for crimes. Salgado is a hardbitten, weary detective who still finds energy in the pursuit of justice.

The novel opens as Salgado is returning to Spain from a visit to Argentina, a forced vacation after he physically assaulted a suspect in a human trafficking and murder case. His colleagues are sympathetic, showing that they, too, balance uneasily between the boundaries permitted by the law and their own sense of fairness.

“Broken jaw. Two fractured ribs. Contusions to the skull and abdomen. A face like a fucking map. All because Héctor lost his head and planted himself in this shit’s house. The guy was lucky not to have internal injuries. He beat him half to death.”

She knew all this. She also knew that had she been sitting in the chair opposite, she would have said exactly the same…For her the world was split into two distinct groups: her people, and everyone else, and without doubt Héctor Salgado fell into the first. So, she counter-attacked. “Why don’t you take out the others? The ones of the girl. Why don’t we see what that evil black quack did to that poor young girl?”

Savall took a deep breath. “Watch it with that black stuff.” Martina gestured impatiently. “That’s all we need. And the thing with the girl doesn’t justify aggression. You know it, I know it, Héctor knows it. And what’s worse, so does that asshole’s lawyer.” He lowered his voice: he’d worked with Andreu for years and trusted her more than any of his other subordinates. “He was here the day before yesterday.”

…“And no one remembers the girl?” asked Héctor bitterly. A poor defense, but it was the only one he had.

“Let’s see if you get this into your head, Salgado.” To his regret, Savall had raised his voice. “As far as we know, there wasn’t the least contact between Dr. Omar and the girl in question after the flat where the girls were kept was taken apart. We couldn’t even show there was any beforehand without the girl’s word. She was in the centre for minors. Somehow they managed to do . . . that . . . to them.”

Héctor nodded. “I know the facts, chief.”

The assault case is not fully resolved in the course of the story, and it’s clear it will be an ongoing plot element as the series progresses. Meanwhile, Salgado’s superior officer assigns him somewhat unofficially to what seems to be, on the surface, a simple case involving a teenager’s accidental death. As one might guess from the complexities revealed in the first few pages, the case turns out to be anything but open and shut. Salgado and his temporary partner Leire Castro, an intriguing character in her own right, must investigate from high society to the criminal underworld of Barcelona.

Fans of John Luther from the BBC1 television series of the same name or the detectives and plots in “Nordic Noir” novels by Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell will likely enjoy The Summer of Dead Toys with its similar themes and tone. Besides that, who wouldn’t want a crime-filled vacation in Barcelona?


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Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories.  She also reads a lot.  Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at

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