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Thriller set in Spain, both in the past and in the present

5th August 2021

Zahara and the Lost Books of Light by Joyce Yarrow – thriller set in Spain, both in the past and in the present.

Zahara and the Lost Books of Light is a hard book to classify. At one level it is an excellent thriller set in both the past (the Middle Ages, the second World War, and Franco’s period of rule) as well as the present. At another level it is a scholarly treatise into the saving of various very rare religious works from the power of the Inquisition. Priceless Christian, Moslem, and Jewish books are brought together and preserved in Southern Spain.They were from a time when the three religions coexisted peacefully. Joyce Yarrow has clearly done some very thorough research.

The various time shift elements of the story are presented through Alienor Crespo – a Jew of Spanish origin and now a journalist in Seattle. Her family have lived on the West Coast of the States for generations having fled persecution in Spain. She is presented with the opportunity to return to Spain to become a Spanish citizen as Spain seems to make amends for its past sins. Alienor, though, has a gift. She experiencies vijitas which enable her to travel back in time and exist in the minds of her female forbears. She becomes that forbear for a period of time and experiences things as they were experienced by her ancestors. Yes, it is clearly an artificial device – but it works really well.

The present day thriller is about what happens after Alienor’s arrival in Spain. ‘Someone’ doesn’t want her to succeed in gaining citizenship and wants her to return to Seattle. People are killed and her life is threatened. But why? Can it be because her vijitas might unlock secrets and lead her to the lost books – books which others are so desperate to find and exploit. Might she get there before them?

The book moves to an exciting and violent conclusion. I felt satisfied at the outcome, and also much better educated in periods of Spanish history than I had been – from the Inquisition, through WW2, and Franco’s rule. A book I would recommend.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

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First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

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