If you’re a writer, you often hear about what one “isn’t supposed to do” with regard to the narrative and these little rules often turn many a novel into the same-old, same-old. What draws me to Luisge Martin as a novelist is the fact that he is more than willing to do what he sees fit and that is precisely what he does with his amazing novel “Woman In Darkness”. It’s a story about shadows, hidden identities, secrets, mysteries and how the pursuit of them can cause one to spiral down towards unknown depths.
The novel begins with a man named Guillermo, whose real name happens to be Segismundo. He meets an American woman named Nicole, who eventually renames herself Olivia when a horrible accident that took the life of her friend makes her literally unable to leave Madrid. She and Guillermo begin seeing one another and eventually get married and have their first child. Life looks good for them. Enter Eusebio, a close friend of Guillermo’s. Over coffee one day, Guillermo confesses that he has been seeing another woman. Not just any woman, but a dominatrix named Marcia. This disturbs Eusebio and although he tries not to judge his friend, he can’t help thinking about the stories he had been told. How could Guillermo do such a thing when he has a wife and child at home? Not long after this meeting, Guillermo is killed in a bad car accident, again tearing away someone close to Olivia. Eusebio goes to his friend’s funeral but keeps himself in the background, observing Guillermo’s wife, harboring the dark secret he had been told.
Eusebio, even after months of learning the story, is still obsessing on it. Eusebio is the main protagonist in this novel, an interesting change of pace being that the first chapter focuses on Guillermo and Olivia with extreme detail. As soon as the reader becomes comfortable with them, Martin tears them away, turning the focus on Eusebio. Eusebio is a man in his later thirties/early forties. Independently wealthy due to being orphaned at a young age and eventually inheriting a lot of money, he has a lot of time on his hands. He often takes jobs just to give him something to do and as soon as he’s bored with it, he leaves, moves on to something else. He dates many different women, commits to none of them. From early on one could see that he has something of a problem.
Still obsessing about the story Guillermo told him about Marcia, Eusebio begins to troll the online sex sites, looking to see if he could find this “Marcia” with the idea of paying her a visit and giving her the news that Guillermo was dead. But he has something else in mind — to experience what Guillermo experienced. He goes through great lengths to track her down, which he eventually does, but what happens is not what he expects. He meets “Marcia”, whose real name is Julia, and the woman he meets is far from what he imagined her to be. Marcia is beautiful, soft spoken, loving, kind — hardly the image of the dominatrix that Guillermo had painted for him.
Strangely, the two hit it off and Eusebio begins to date her and Julia (“Marcia”) eventually falls in love with him. Their relationship is like any other and Julia betrays no hints of her sado-masochistic alter ego. Obsessed with trying to discover why, Eusebio begins on a venture to find out and little by little he finds himself sinking into the depths of human depravity — getting more involved with people he meets in the sex chat rooms (including a neighbor of Julia’s who has a penchant for underage boys and girls). He begins to obsessively follow Julia, watching her every move: where she goes, who she hangs out with, all in an attempt to find the mysterious “Marcia” lurking beneath the soft and loving Julia and does so with the skill of a private detective. He goes as far as writing letters to “Marica” taking on the role of Guillermo in order to see how she reacts to them. Even still, “Marcia” remains elusive. Eusebio, meanwhile, sinks further and further into the sexual underground until he himself is brought up to a line that he isn’t sure he is willing to cross.
What I find interesting about this novel more than anything else is the way it twists and turns. Just when you think it’s going one way, an abrupt about face takes place, sending the story careening down another path entirely. The reader does not see any of what happens coming. Not by a long shot, and this is what makes this novel the amazing read that it is. Brilliantly written, expertly plotted, it keeps readers on their toes, all with enough tension and intrigue of a great detective novel. However it is very dark and not for the prudish or feint of heart. There are a lot of disturbing scenes here and the reader will grow to dislike Eusebio the further he spirals out of control.
Translated by Michael McDevitt