Reading this, I didn't feel like I was reading an 'entry', but an already published novel. I don't think I even spotted many spelling or formatting mistakes, this is really polished!
As a crime novel it doesn't start with an immediate bang, no sudden appearance of a dead body or anything like that. It starts more slowly, but carefully, with a detailed (but not too detailed) description of Ronda, a brief review of history, the question of bull fighting, life and death. Then there's Quadling, sitting at a little table outside a cafe, being a consumate academic geek. I was wondering at the back of my mind when is the crime/mystery going to show up? But my patience as a reader was certainly not strained. And then the helicopter hovers into view over the gorge and you know, there it is. I really liked this beginning.
The details and history of Ronda seem very well-researched and carefully placed, you've managed the balance very well of creating a thorough setting but not info-dumping guidebook details. It just sets the scene enough. Quadling's knowledge of languages also seems well-researched.
One slight thing that occurred to me was that the first few pages, before we actually get to Quadling, sound as though someone is describing the scene to me, is telling me about the region's history. Whose voice is that meant to be? I thought they might be Quadling's reflections, but when we get to him that is not clear, he is supposed to be reading the Greek book. If it is supposed to be just the third person style, those first few pages sound just a little too much like a person's thoughts. But it was only the first few pages, I didn't have a problem with the rest of the chapters.
The characters we meet initially all seem well-defined, even if we don't learn very much about them, yet, except perhaps for Quadling. The General, Jenny, everyone has a distinct voice that gives you clues about who they are, how they think, how they will react. From the description in the synopsis, I really wanted to meet Rojas, but unfortunately he didn't make an appearance in the first three chapters. The chapters, by the way, were of a good length, just long enough to be of substance, but not too long so that you're impatient to get to the next scene.
The letters are a good indication of the complicated web of relationships & betrayal, money & property that have led to the crime, a good way to get the plot bubbling. Again, the character's voices come through even in Quadling's translations and draw you into their dramas, beautiful (presumably) Athanasia and the possibly crotchety old German who possibly owns the house. I was interested, I wanted to read more.
I'm almost sorry I read the synopsis, because now I know how it ends (but I think that's the kind of synopsis they want for the competition). I would still want to read it myself, though, to go on that journey, to visit more exotic locations, and to meet Rojas since I'm curious about him.
Good luck in the competition.
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