To be fair, this isn’t really a “crime story,” it’s a narrative that leads up to a crime. But it’s an excellent read, with some striking imagery, and I like it. That’s all the reason I need….
Originally published in 1890, Emilia Pardo Bazán’s “Un destripador de antaño” (“A Ripper of Yesteryear“) tells of the tragic intersection between the lives of a young orphaned peasant girl and a mysterious apothecary. It’s set in the author’s native Galicia, in and around the historic city of Santiago de Compostela, the ending point of the famous pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago. The story’s introduction implies that it may be inspired by an old Galician folktale:
The legend of “The Ripper,” the half-sage, half-sorcerer assassin, is a very old one in my homeland. I heard it at a tender age, whispered or chanted in frightful refrains,… I will tell it to you. Enter valiantly with me into the shadowy regions of the soul.
It’s also seems related to a certain Andean folklegend, which I won’t mention here, for fear of spoilers. But if you’re interested, you’ll find a pointer in the footnotes of my translation.