Somoza, José Carlos 1959-

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Somoza, José Carlos 1959-

PERSONAL: Born November 13, 1959, in Havana, Cuba; brought to Spain in 1960. Education: Studied medicine and psychiatry in Cordoba, Spain; earned a B.S. in psychiatry.

ADDRESSES: Home— Spain. E-mail— [email protected]

CAREER: Worked in psychiatry, then became a fulltime writer in 1994.

AWARDS, HONORS: Prize Vertical Smile, 1996, for Blanca’s Silence; Prize Coffee Gijón, 1998, for The Painted Window; Fernando Lara, 2001, and Sahiell Hammett International, 2002, both for The Art of Murder; Macallan Gold Dagger, 2002, for The Athenian Murders.


Cartas de un asesino insignificante, Debate Editorial (Madrid, Spain), 1999.

La ventana pintada (title means: “The Painted Window”), Algaida (Seville, Spain), 1999.

La caverna de las ideas, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2000, translation by Sonia Soto published as The Athenian Murders, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.

Dafne desvanecida, Destiny Editions (Barcelona, Spain), 2000.

Clara y la penumbra, Planeta (Barcelona, Spain), 2001, translation by Nick Caistor published as The Art of Murder, Abacus (London, England), 2004.

La dama nuemero trece, Random House Mondadori (Barcelona, Spain), 2003.

La caja de marfil, Areté (Barcelona, Spain), 2004.

El detalle: tres novelas breves (novellas), Mondadori (Barcelona, Spain), 2005.

Zigzag, Plaza & Janés (Barcelona, Spain), 2006, Rayo (New York, NY), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS: Born in Havana, Cuba, José Carlos Somoza immigrated to Spain with his family when he was less than a year old. They lived with friends for a period of time, as Somoza’s parents had been forced to flee Fidel Castro’s dictatorship without their money and belongings. As an adult, Somoza has lived in Madrid and Cordoba, where he went to school to study medicine and psychiatry. Although he did practice medicine for a time, he also discovered a love and talent for writing, and in 1994, began submitting his work to publishers and to writing contests. His first novel was soon published, and Somoza turned all of his attention to writing. He was awarded the Prize Vertical Smile in 1996 for Blanca’s Silence, and the Prize Coffee Gijón, in 1998 for The Painted Window.

The Athenian Murders, a thriller, is the first of Somoza’s novels that has been released in the United States. The book combines snippets of a Greek text with the life of the translator, who is translating an ancient Greek murder mystery. Ultimately, the translator finds himself to be the target of a murder plot in the present day. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the book “a highly original and literary approach to crime fiction.” A contributor to Kirkus Reviews remarked: “Though the plot’s deliberate obscurities both intrigue and annoy, the rich, elegant writing will please all comers.” Pedro Ponce, writing for the Review of Contemporary Fiction, commented: “The thrill of this novel comes from both its ingeniously structured mystery plot and the larger questions it raises about what constitutes knowledge and experience.” In a review for World Literature Today, David Ross Gerling noted that Somoza’s effort “rewards the persistent reader with intellectual pleasure tinged with humor and a rarefied emotional experience.” W.R. Greer, in a review for the Review of Books Online, wrote: “As with all good mysteries, all the pieces fall into place in hindsight once the book comes to an end. Unpredictable, intelligent, and a tour guide through ancient Greece, ‘The Athenian Murders’ is different from anything else you might read, and in the end, you’ll be glad it is.”

In The Art of Murder, Somoza has created an intriguing universe where posed people are considered works of art, and a young girl in this posed state can be sold for a great deal of money—as art. When one of these posed girls is killed, two detectives attempt to solve the crime and stop the killer before anyone else is hurt. David Pitt, reviewing the novel for Booklist, wrote: “It’s a fascinating and certainly disquieting underworld, and readers are drawn deep into it.” A contributor for Kirkus Reviews remarked: “Murder and the threat of more provides a pulse of underlying tension, but Somoza... elegantly explores larger metaphysical and artistic issues.”



Booklist, June 1, 2006, David Pitt, review of The Art of Murder, p. 45.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2002, review of The Athenian Murders, p. 459; May 15, 2006, review of The Art of Murder, p. 501.

Publishers Weekly, May 6, 2002, review of The Athenian Murders, p. 33.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 2003, Pedro Ponce, review of The Athenian Murders, p. 150.

World Literature Today, October-December, 2003, David Ross Gerling, review of The Athenian Murders, p. 148.


Bookbag Online, (January 2, 2007), Sue Magee, review of The Athenian Murders.

IT Web, (August 25, 2006), Laura Franz, review of The Art of Murder.

Jim Mann’s Reviews and Comments Online, (January 29, 2006), Jim Mann, review of The Athenian Murders.

Review of Books Online, (January 2, 2007), W.R. Greer, review of The Athenian Murders., (June 20, 2002), Laura Miller, review of The Athenian Murders.

San Francisco Chronicle Online, (June 16, 2002), Christine Thomas, review of The Athenian Murders.

TiraMillas Online, (January 2, 2007), review of Zigzag.

Washington Post Online, (June 30, 2002), Sanford Pinsker, review of The Athenian Murders.