The Scent of Lemon Leaves by Clara Sanchez

The scent of lemon leavesWith its romantic sounding title and beautiful cover, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a gentle romantic novel about a young woman trying to figure out her life. It isn’t, it is a dark, intriguing and thought-provoking thriller that draws you in and keeps you in suspense.

Sandra is a young, frivolous woman, who is pregnant, has left her job and partner, and is living in her sister’s villa on the Costa Brava, while working out her next move. While on the beach one day, feeling ill, she is comforted by an elderly Norwegian couple who live nearby, and they become friends. Enter Julian, an elderly survivor of the Mauthausen Nazi concentration camp, who has been drawn back to Spain from his home in Argentina, by his friend Salva. Together they have been tracing Nazi war criminals and Salva has discovered a couple living nearby, but when Julian arrives in Spain, Salva has already died.

The book is told in the first person, alternating between Julian and Sandra, as this unlikely couple become friends and together seek to confirm the identity of the Nazis living in this beautiful part of Spain. It’s a fairly slow read, and the suspense builds as both put themselves in danger to achieve their aims and seek justice and retribution.

The book is beautifully written and very well translated. The stunning setting of the novel is somewhat at odds with the atrocities committed by those who live there, and indeed one of the main themes is whether they should be able to live out their lives in such peace and beauty after the crimes they committed. It’s a book that keeps you thinking long after you’ve finished it.


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