About the book

“Because there are wars that last a lifetime.”
A story of love, espionage and war in the Balkan conflict.

An anti-war, overwhelming and emotional novel that focuses on women, the great victims of wars.

Pere Cervantes lived in Kosovo and Bosnia for two and a half years, during which he served as a Peace Observer for the UN, and he knows the conflict and how wars mark and transform people’s lives forever.

«—Don’t make me the heroine of your report, Panco. I ask you please. Shout to the world that in the heart of this blind and deaf Europe, at the gates of the twenty-first century, we still find mass graves. That’s the only news.”

The Crystal Spy It is hurtful and emotional literature, an atrocious chronicle about the penultimate war that occurred in Europe. Between crossroads of intelligence services and the non-negotiable search for the truth, there is also room for a love story as ambiguous as it is true.

Taibe Shala is not just another victim of the last war in the Balkans. She is a lover with an icy soul. A United Nations interpreter. A mother made of silences. A renowned Kosovo Albanian journalist. A spy. This disturbing novel begins with Taibe’s strange disappearance in Pristina, her hometown, in October 2019.

Manu Pancorbo, alias Panco, an old love of Taibe and a Spanish war reporter, will undertake his own private odyssey to find out the reasons for the disappearance of the woman he has not been able to forget. He will do so accompanied by his loyal companion in armed conflicts, Olga Balcells, a photographer who accumulates international recognition, deaths of loved ones and ghosts from which she cannot free herself.

The investigations of the two journalists in the new Kosovo will take them into a dark world of personal vendettas, intelligence agencies, suspense and betrayals. Returning to the Balkans twenty years later will open wounds in Panco that he thought had already healed. He will be diving into episodes of the recent past when he will discover who Taibe Shala is, the enigmatic woman whom he will never fully know.

Set in an impoverished Kosovo and in the hands of international organizations, The Glass Spy addresses such powerful themes as love, espionage, the role of the United Nations on the ground and the personal consequences of being a committed war reporter (only in In 2020, fifty of them were murdered in different countries). A novel whose narrative, plots and rhythm evoke the style of A Quiet American by Graham Greene or The Constant Gardener by John le Carré. A story in which we will find balanced doses of denunciation, suspense and romance.


Taibe Shala

He is a direct victim of the Kosovo war. An outraged young woman who lost her family in the conflict. However, upon landing a job as an interpreter for the United Nations, her life turns upside down. While two intelligence agencies fight to obtain her services in a troubled Kosovo, she falls in love with Manu Pancorbo (alias Panco), a Spanish war reporter experienced in several conflicts. The shadow of the rape conditions Taibe’s life and her character, turning her into an enigmatic and discreet woman; Fragile in appearance like glass, but with a tenacious spirit.

Manu Pancorbo, «Panco»

Panco is an experienced war reporter when he arrives in Kosovo in 1999 and meets Taibe Shala. The difficulties of understanding a wounded woman like Taibe make him take the easy way: return home alone. Years will pass, but he will never forget Taibe. He will get married and have a daughter. He will separate. And when they demand his presence and his help to try to find out the reasons why Taibe has disappeared twenty years later, Panco will return to Kosovo with Olga Balcells, his inseparable co-worker. Taibe’s search is also the search for himself. He needs to reunite with the man he once was.

Olga Balcells

Olga Balcells writes through images. The years dedicated to a dozen war conflicts and the recognized international awards that she has never wanted to collect have turned her into a prestigious photographer. She avoids submitting to established rules and has a viperine tongue, which does not bite even when she sees her future in danger. She drags with her a part of genius and darkness. She is a loyal woman, hurt by the things she has seen and hurt by the loss of the two women she has loved. She is Manu Pancorbo’s faithful companion in fatigues. Alcoholic and addicted to sleeping pills, she suffers from incipient post-traumatic stress due to the wars she experienced.

Andrea Gast

He is an agent of the German Intelligence Service. He already was in Kosovo in 1999 and continues to be in 2019. Andrea Gast is a talkative, cultured and educated guy, with good manners, but relentless in his actions when necessary. Dedicated to his work, to his cause, to his country. He will be the one chosen to recruit Taibe Shala as a double intelligence agent. He will be his mentor, his protector, his friend. He will always rival Panco and will be a key piece in solving the disappearance of Taibe Shala.


The action of this novel takes place mainly in Kosovo. Cities like Pristina, which were once a devastated and dangerous territory, as well as the conflictive city of Mitrovica, where a bridge over the Ibar River separates the Kosovar Albanian ethnic group from the Serb, are part of the main setting of the narrative.

The story takes place in two parallel timelines: in 1999 (the Kosovo war) and in 2019 (the year in which Taibe Shala, the main character of the novel, disappears).

There are also references to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Barcelona (city of Manu Pancorbo and Olga Balcells), with special mention of the nationalist conflict that is being experienced in Catalonia and its possible parallel with the Balkan war.


Woman as a weapon of war. In the Balkans, the rapes of women and girls were the response to a strategy aimed at terrorizing the population and contributing to ethnic cleansing. When the conflict ceased, the reaction to the barbarism was silence. In The Crystal Spy a voice is given to the more than 20,000 women raped during the war conflict in Kosovo (4,000 of them became pregnant). Because the truth of a war is in the memories of its victims.

The job of war reporter. The Crystal Spy invites us to reflect on the unfathomable loneliness that every war reporter suffers and the consequences (post-traumatic stress, death…) that this entails.

The cynicism of the international community. The ineptitude of some of the most revered international institutions such as NATO and the United Nations is also exposed. The novel aims, by reading it, to eliminate that fog that for most Europeans is the unfinished war in the Balkans. Because, while all this was happening two thousand kilometers from our homes, where were the rest of us Europeans? What were we doing to avoid it? Perhaps the time has come—now that there are no longer CNN cameras on site—for literature to give survivors a voice and restore their dignity.

And a love that is not forgotten. Although sometimes love loses the game in the face of an unfavorable context such as a war, there are loves capable of being reborn in the face of adversity. Despite the passage of time and the feared oblivion.

Source: https://algunoslibrosbuenos.com/la-espia-de-cristal

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