Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"The Devils of Cardona"

Matthew Carr is a writer and journalist, living in Derbyshire England. He is the author of five non-fiction books: My Father’s House (1997); The Infernal Machine: a History of Terrorism (2007), also published in the UK as The Infernal Machine: an Alternative History of Terrorism (2011); Blood and Faith: the Purging of Muslim Spain (2009, 2010); Sherman’s Ghosts: Soldiers, Civilians, and the American War of War (2015), and Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent, available in the UK as Fortress Europe: Inside the War Against the Immigration (2015).

Carr applied the Page 69 Test to The Devils of Cardona, his first novel, and reported the following:
Readers who skim Page 69 of The Devils of Cardona will find themselves at the end of Chapter Six, so they only have to read half a page. I hope these few paragraphs will induce them to look further, because they will arrive right in the middle of a very grim and dramatic development. My main character Alcalde (Judge) Mendoza is staying at the viceroy of Aragon's palace in Zaragoza with his team.

He's just about to head up into the Pyrenees to investigate the brutal murder of a priest at the village of Belamar - a village populated mostly by Moriscos (Muslim converts to Catholicism), when he sees the viceroy and Mercader, the Inquisitor of Aragon, in urgent conversation with a man who he hasn't met before.

There are already tensions between the careful, dogged criminal judge Mendoza and the ambitious and fanatical Inquisitor. Mercader hates Moriscos and wants the Inquisition to carry out its own investigation at Belamar. The arrival from the countryside only sharpens the differences between the two men:
"Bad news, Mendoza," the viceroy said. "This is Constable Vargas, the chief constable of Jaca. It seems that three brothers have been found murdered near Belamar. All of them are Old Christians."

"One of them was nailed to a cross!" Mercader exclaimed. "With the heads of his brothers arranged next to him!"
The cautious and thorough Mendoza immediately asks the constable if he's seen these bodies with his own eyes. Mercader doesn't need to see them. The Inquisitor already believes what he hears and is outraged and clearly vindicated by the news, which seems to confirm everything he has told Mendoza about Belamar. The ending of the chapter makes these feeling clear:
Mercader's narrow eyes glittered, and his cadaverous features bore an expression of bitter fury as he turned toward Mendoza. "Now do you understand the kind of people we are dealing with, Alcalde?" he said.
Readers and skimmers will have to follow Mendoza into the Pyrenees in order to find out what kind of people he is dealing with, and some may already be wondering on the basis of Page 69 what kind of person Mercader is. They may also want to know who has killed the three Old Christians, and the chapter ending strongly suggests that there may be more mayhem to come.

To those who like this kind of thing, and even to those who don't, all this ought to be enough to give them a reason to turn the page.
Visit Matthew Carr's website.

--Marshal Zeringue