Covers Story

Javier Martínez is a young Spanish writer and animator living in the Madrid area. His partner recently gave birth to their first child, but – in a radical bid for the equality of the sexes – he will shortly give birth to another: Mina San Telmo, heroine of a trilogy of children’s mystery novels, the first of which is to be published later this year (by edebé). A few people have enjoyed reading the novels as they developed, including members of one of Madrid’s various informal writers groups, and a few weeks ago Javier brought along copies of the covers that have been commissioned for the series. I thought they were fantastic, and he kindly gave me permission to generate some free publicity for him by including them in my blog.

I think the first one is my favourite:

I’ve been living in Madrid for over five years and to my shame my Spanish remains appallingly bad, but the title translates more or less to Mina San Telmo and the Monstrous Museum – “damned” would be closer, but that sounds a little strong for children’s literature, plus we want to maintain the alliteration, no? However, my literal fumblings with the subtitle were too embarrassing to include so I went to the source – the English would be, of course, a murder mystery about modern art. Fortunately for me Javier is bi-lingual, so although the original novels are written in his native tongue he has already rendered the first into English, and naturally he plans to do the same with the sequels.

His protagonist is uniquely precocious. A best-selling mystery author at the age of twelve, when we meet her Mina is struggling to produce a follow up novel and risks falling out of the limelight. Much to her dismay her publisher wants a book about modern art instead, but when a wealthy English art collector is murdered she sees an opportunity to kill (so to speak) two birds with one stone, agreeing to write a boring book about modern art on the condition that she can do it in the style of a murder mystery. Cue auctions and kidnaps, chases and getaways, shadowy figures, dead bodies, French policemen, and – if the cover is anything to go by – hypnosis…

With the subsequent stories the covers pick up where the first left off. The second book, Mina San Telmo and the Celluloid Crypta perfect theft from the history of film, has Mina embroiled in a cinematic heist. This time you can seek out any hints by yourself:

The demands of the publishing world mean that the release of the first book is contingent of the advance delivery of all three, and Javier is going through the final stages of that process right now. The series culminates with Mina San Telmo and the Great Experiment – a hypothetical case of science fiction, in which she is drawn into an extraterrestrial (well, sort of) conspiracy.

I love the style of these images. They are the work of Joan Fernandez, more of which can be seen on her blog, negrescolor. As well as the artwork itself, I also enjoy how much of the story is being communicated through them; it may be no surprise these days that the books follow the popular Harry Potter and the Novel’s Title convention, but here they are set off by much more than just a momentary beat of the story and the hero stood in a dynamic pose.

When I first saw them I could have looked at them all day – at the moment they are making it hard for me to concentrate on typing. So, this year I’m very much looking forward to honing my Spanish to a razor’s edge with the help of books intended for readers around a quarter of my age. That’s if I can bring myself to look beyond the covers, of course.

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