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by Barbara Wilson
Seal Press, 2001
Review by Su Terry on Nov 14th 2002

Gaudi Afternoon

Gaudi Afternoon is a lighthearted mystery about a missing person and sundry other kidnappings set in Spain. By most standard, it is your average "cozy" mystery.  It has no blood, no graphic violence, no sex, but it does have plenty of excitement, strange characters, giggles and guffaws.

Gaudi Afternoon: A Cassandra Reilly Mystery by Barbara Wilson is set in Barcelona, Spain. As the novel opens Cassandra Reilly, a 40ish translator of Spanish literature, is sitting her frigid London flat translating a surreal Latin American novel and dreaming of warmer climes when she receives a call from Frankie Stevens. Frankie is a friend of a friend, who is leaving for Spain to try and find her free-spirited husband who supposedly is in Barcelona. Frankie is richer than rich and is too consumed with her looks to be bothered by learning the basics of tourist Spanish, so she see no problem with “renting” a personal translator to accompany her. Cassandra eager to defrost jumps at the opportunity even though she has learned that such assignments are seldom what they first appear to be. Thus Cassandra is not the least bit surprised when during their first morning in Barcelona, Frankie’s story begins to change along with Cassandra’s job description. To say more would be to ruin the surprises in this roller coaster ride through the many twists and turns that make up this mystery, but let me give you a clue, nothing and no one in this mystery is quite who s/he appears to be.

Cassandra Reilly is a world traveler, professional translator, and amateur sleuth. She’s been everywhere and done it all. She is sharp, witty and wise cracking. She is very likable. Frankie, Ben, Hamilton, and April Schauers (I kid you not!) are another story. They are such an odd lot that not only do they deserve each other, but they could fund an entire counseling practice with their personal quirks and interpersonal squabbles. Ana, a creator of children’s playhouses and one of Cassandra’s many love interests, is sweet, but she wants Cassandra to settle down and have a baby. Carmen, the fiery hairdresser and another of Cassandra’s love interest, is hot-to-trot, but feels she must play the “good Catholic girl” since she is living with her mother. And April, foot therapist and Cassandra latest love interest, is uninterested in Cassandra’s advances and has our translator ponder whether foot massages can really replace sex?  As for the Gaudi of the title, Antonio Gaudi is an actual historic person. He was a Spanish modernist architect and his architectural creations, including Le Pedrera and the Park Guell are real and as described.

Barbara Wilson wrote Gaudi Afternoon in 1990 and the book reflects an era before “coming out” was the vogue. Homosexual sexual activities occur off-screen or not at all. The issues of cross-dressing and transgender identity bending are not seriously portrayed, but rather are used as comical vehicles. While her mystery is humorous, the humor is often at the expense of the transsexuals and crossing dressers. Some readers may take offensive at the humor and should be forewarned.

Barbara Wilson is a feminist lesbian author and the founder of Seal Press. Wilson grew up in California, but spent many years traveling. Her fiction writing includes the stand alone novels, Murder in the Collective (1984), Sisters of the Road (1986), and The Dog Collar Murders (1989), two mystery series, Cassandra Reilly Mysteries - The Death of a Much-Travelled Woman: And Other Adventures with Cassandra Reilly (1988), Gaudi Afternoon (1991), and Trouble in Transylvania (1993), and Brenda Midnight Mysteries: Death Brims Over (1997), Accessory to Murder (1998), and Death Flips its Lid (1998). Her Blue Windows: A Christian Science Childhood (1998) was nominated for the PEN West AWARD for Creative Nonfiction and won the Lambda Literary Award. She currently lives in Seattle.

Gaudi Afternoon: A Cassandra Reilly Mystery by Barbara Wilson is a fun read and a welcome addition to the lesbian literature genre. I hope that Wilson gets back to writing more installments in this madcap series. I recommend it.

© 2002 Su Terry

Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.