Book #61

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón 

Barcelona, 1957. It is Christmas, and Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea have much to celebrate. They have a beautiful new baby son named Julian, and their close friend Fermín Romero de Torres is about to be wed. But their joy is eclipsed when a mysterious stranger visits the Sempere bookshop and threatens to divulge a terrible secret that has been buried for two decades in the city's dark past. His appearance plunges Fermín and Daniel into a dangerous adventure that will take them back to the 1940's and the dark early days of Franco's dictatorship. The terrifying events of that time launch them on a journey fraught with jealousy, suspicion, vengeance, and lies, a search for the truth that will put into peril everything they love and ultimately transform their lives.

This book is our screw and our solution. Although the shortest of the series, it’s my favourite for its way of tethering everything we’ve learned so far, its skill in grounding us, and its horrific and unbridled darkness. Best of all, we’re guided through by the bold Fermin, one of the most wonderfully complex and lovable characters ever created.

As we are catapulted back in time, Fermin’s journey and the events leading up to his employment in Sempere’s bookshop are made clear. There are masterful links to characters we’ve met in the previous books, subtle nods and obvious connections. The way Zafón weaves is meticulous, perfectly crafted, and highly engaging. The feeling of joy when things began to make sense was something I hadn’t felt whilst reading for a long time.

Zafón continues his gloomy setting, but also injects feelings of menace. We see power and corruption take root in Barcelona, and experience it alongside the innocent and tortured. There’s pepperings of anguish which are only relieved by our faithful and optimistic Fermin, taking centre stage as a complicated yet beautiful human being.

A perfect interlude in the tale, positioned carefully, received gratefully, and utterly utterly gorgeous.