Terra Alta
Rights sold:
  • Croatian Fraktura
  • English Maclehose
  • Italian Ugo Guanda
  • Portuguese Porto
  • Romanian Rao

Terra Alta / Even the Darkest Night

Novel , 2019


Pages: 384

2023 Dagger for Crime Fiction in Translation Winner
2019 Planeta Prize 

He was a fair man, but the world wasn't. A shocking thriller.

A terrible murder shakes the peaceful region of Terra Alta: The powerful owner of the company Gráficas Adell and his wife are killed after suffering horrible tortures. Melchor Marín is placed in charge of the case, a young policeman and voracious reader who arrived from Barcelona four years ago, with a dark past that has made him a legend in the force. This, he believes he has buried under his happy family life as husband of the local librarian and father of Cosette, a girl with the same name as the daughter of Jean Valjean, a character in his favourite novel, Les Miserables.

Starting from the crime, and thanks to its thrilling plot, this novel becomes a lucid reflection on the value of the law, the possibility of justice and the legitimacy of revenge. But above all it is the epic story of a man in search of a place in the world.

“This fierce story is about life and literature, and about what the latter can do to the former if it is brave and stripped-back. From the beginning to the end, this is a tense whodunit.” Lilian Neuman, Culturas, La Vanguardia

“In Cercas’ writing, the hero can never avoid being the result of a moral imperative that overwhelms him and obliges him to make unforeseen decisions. Externally Terra Alta represents a change in almost every aspect (crime, the Catalan police, and so on), but if you read beyond that outward appearance you discover that it remains faithful to the inner form of his novels, always in a position to draw the face of a hero who doesn't want to be one.” Abc

“The impeccable flow of Terra Alta as a crime novel, which will certainly widen Cercas’ reading public, will not prevent readers from identifying some of his deep constants. […] Cercas is not afraid to handle emotions and feelings, which, instead of toning down the narrative, deepen the impact made on the reader by a storyline of resounding efficiency. I said at the beginning that Cercas “in some ways” reinvents himself. No doubt he does, but his Melchor Martin is the indisputable carrier of the DNA of his defective heroes.” Dómingo Ródenas de Moya, El Periódico

Cercas has spun an agile story whose mystery plot grips the reader right from the start and keeps the tension alive until the denouement with the overlapping purpose of stirring anaesthetized consciences.” Santos Sanz Villanueva, El Cultural

The U.S. Press: 

"Irresistible, a wonderful commingling of scrupulous realism and scandalous invention...the language here — furious, precise...It’s hard not to want to see where life, and Terra Alta, will take him next." Gareth Risk, New York Times

Even the Darkest Night explores timeless issues of vengeance and mercy, good and evil, love and hate. It’s a sweeping romantic novel in the form of a police procedural. Readers in tune with its approach and concerns will be richly rewarded.” Wall Street Journal

"Part-investigative procedural, part-contemporary noir, Even the Darkest Night is at heart a revenge tragedy, a story of multiple betrayals and loyalties with a Cercas-trademark meditation on redemption.” Crime Reads

"'Even the Darkest Night,' winner of Spain’s most prestigious literary prize, asks big questions about justice, revenge and whether literature can change lives." Los Angeles Times

"[...] Cercas manages to give his readers something more valuable than your standard thriller. In Melchor Marín, Cercas has created a complicated and conflicted hero to follow through multiple books, unraveling the mysteries of his past while nurturing hope for the ever-elusive happy ending. In addition, he’s written secondary characters we recognize and greet on the page as old acquaintances, whose lives we know intimately and follow as eagerly as we would family members. And that human connection, my friends, is what makes an international bestseller — never believe otherwise." Los Angeles Review of Books

"Javier Cercas is one of the most brilliant and creative writers living today, and Even the Darkest Night is one of his best yet. A Barcelona detective heads into the countryside to solve a double murder; both the murders and the detective are not what they seem to be, as strange occurrences and secret histories begin to pervade the investigation." Crime Reads

The U.K. Press:

“Even the Darkest Night is the first in what promises to be an excellent series.” – Guardian 

 “Striking” – Barry Forshaw, Financial Times 

 “His description of the savage murders of an elderly couple does not make easy reading, but Cercas perfectly captures the fearful mood of a town in rural Catalonia after the crime.” – Sunday Times 

 “[A] maddening, ultimately moving murder mystery” – The Times 

 “A wonderful novel. I look forward to many more Melchor stories.” – A.N. Wilson, The Tablet

Italian Press:

"Le sue opere seducono, provocano, indispettiscono, perché il professore di Letteratura ha un’idea forte, quasi militante del romanzo, oggetto che spinge il lettore non solo a svagarsi ma a porsi delle domande su se stesso e sul mondo che lo circonda." TTL – La Stampa

"Il libro [Terra Alta], che in Spagna ha vinto il Premio Planeta, è uno di quelli che ha una superficie e trasparente, ma non il fondo: niente è scontato, i dialoghi sono serrati tra botta e risposta alternati a pause esplicative non troppo lunghe e mai noiose." Huffingtonpost

"Il varco tra la volontà del racconto e la realtà dell’episodio è il motore che innerva la scrittura di Cercas, creando una narrativa di straordinaria forza ed efficacia moderna." Il Giornale

"Cercas realizza un noir che tiene insieme i suoi vari talenti e le differenti anime della propria opera e, come nei suoi precedenti romanzi, cerca in Terra Alta di tenere aperte porte e finestre su altre realtà. Quello che la sua narrativa sembra rifiutare è in effetti l’immersione in mondi chiusi e claustrofobici. Cercas vuole sempre aprire su un altrove, che è, insieme all’opposto – la chiusura in spazi e luoghi ristretti – la sua doppia vocazione di scrittore profondamente spagnolo e insieme profondamente europeo, e ovviamente internazionale." Doppiozero

"Una storia avvincente, che cattura il lettore dalle prime pagine, e allo stesso tempo scuote profondamente le coscienze." El Cultural

French Press:

"Javier Cercas n’a jamais cessé de vouloir comprendre la tragédie de cette guerre civile, (...). Il poursuit cette quête dans **Terra Alta**, roman sur la vengeance, haletant jusqu’à la dernière page." Gilles Heuré, Telerama

"Cercas actionne en maître les rouages de l’horlogerie du polar. Tout est là (...). Tout est là mais la chair et le sang sont ceux des personnages." Damien Aubel, Transfuge 

"Troublant." Lire

"...une réflexion romanesque où se mêlent la noirceur des âmes et la persistance du souvenir. Un travail d’orfèvre, parfaitement réussi." Olivier Mony, Sudouest

"Ce n’est pas un polar, c’est beaucoup plus que cela car le personnage principal est une relecture à la fois de Jean Valjean et de Javert dans 'Les Misérables'." Oriane Jeancourt, France Culture

Spanish Press: 

 “This fierce story is about life and literature, and about what the latter can do to the former if it is brave and stripped-back. From the beginning to the end, this is a tense whodunit.” Lilian Neuman, Culturas, La Vanguardia

“The impeccable flow of Terra Alta as a crime novel, which will certainly widen Cercas’ reading public, will not prevent readers from identifying some of his deep constants."  Dómingo Ródenas de Moya, El Periódico