María Oruña (Vigo, 1976) always has her eyes wide open because she knows that any place she visits can become the setting for future novels. It happened to him in Puente Viesgo, during a visit to the local water temple. “At first it seemed like so many other places. And then my friend Iñaki asked me if he wanted to see the old spa, which is in those same facilities. I remember going down some stairs that invited me to take a trip back in time, walking through some 19th century hallways and saying ‘now, a crime will be committed here,'” explains the author, who publishes today The inocents the sixth volume of the saga ‘The Books of Puerto Escondido’.
Months after that “spark”, the Cantabrian crime lady repeats the same steps, although this time accompanied by a group of journalists who have visited this place in the Valles Pasiegos region through which the Pas River runs. and where one of the most important groups of prehistoric caves is located. “The impression is the same,” she acknowledges as she observes a font that “from the moment I saw it for the first time I was drawn to it and knew I was going to write about it. There are things that work based on gut feelings and then you channel them.”
“Within beauty and peace there is also a place for death,” reflects the writer María Oruña
The pump takes on relevance in the novel, because a group of businessmen approach these facilities and will be victims of a massacre perpetrated with a dangerous chemical weapon. “I was clear about the place and that it would be something massive. I pulled newspaper archives and read a lot about sarin gas. I was amazed to see that it was not something that difficult to achieve.
Recreating a multiple massacre on paper was the literary challenge of this installment, which takes place two weeks before Lieutenant Valentina Redondo—its protagonist par excellence—marries Professor Oliver Gordon. “Each book in the series pays homage to a different type of detective novel.” In the past she experimented with the domestic noir he thriller scientific or with the classic locked room mysteries that Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie made so popular. “Now I wanted to bring evil to that pure place because within beauty and peace there is also a place for death.”
The purity is partly provided by the idyllic setting, surrounded by nature. It is not uncommon to see dippers hanging around there. Oruña begins his story with this bird, which “only exists in places where the water is crystal clear. An immaculate place where things can also happen”, says the writer.
Iñaki Bedia, public relations of the Gran Hotel Balneario de Puente Viesgo and who discovered this place to the author, acknowledges that yes, that indeed “things happen” there, but “for now not a crime, beyond the literary. The Spanish football team of ’94 gathered here for twenty days and personalities such as the Marquis of Comillas, Menéndez Pelayo and Benito Pérez Galdós, who described Puente Viesgo as paradise, have also passed by.
In the same spa where Oruña locates its history, personalities such as Menéndez Pelayo or Pérez Galdós have passed by.
Oruña transforms this tranquility into the most police and action plot he has created so far. “These lines have been written with hardcore music like I wanna be your slave ” by Måneskin. All this energy “maybe because I take a bottle of bee pollen every time I write a book. I have a memory like a fish, but with this I even remember my dreams”. Will he use it again in future stories? “Yes, but for the moment they will not have Valentina as the protagonist. This does not mean that there will not be more books by her in the future, but if there are, the game will be different ”, he concludes.
Those dark places
Spas are those places where people go in search of relaxation. What could go wrong in a place like this? Cinema and literature say everything. “They are the perfect contrast,” says María Oruña, who places her latest novel in one. Vázquez Montalbán had already done it before in The spa, which placed Detective Carvalho in a bathhouse where several deaths occur. The same title is given to the first work by Carmen Martín Gaite, which conveys how gloomy these spaces can become.
Henrik Ibsen also set An enemy of the people, his most controversial work, in some baths and Agatha Christie herself was found in others after eleven days missing. Years later, she would take Poirot to a spa in Evil under the sun.
Beyond the crime novel, Thomas Mann also thought of a place like this to The magic mountain and Gabo for his unpublished story, which will be published in 2024. Pure inspiration.