“So,” said Gamache, looking at Matheo. “Are you considering bringing the cobrador del frac to Québec? Are you asking me if it would be legal?”
Matheo and Lea stared at Gamache, then Matheo laughed.
“Good God, no. I’m showing you this because Lea and I think that that”—he pointed out the window—“is a cobrador del frac.”
“A debt collector?” asked Gamache, and felt a slight frisson. Like the warning before a quake. (Glass Houses, page 54)
From its original Spanish, cobrador del frac translates as “The Dress-Coat Collector.” And as Mateo says in the novel, they’re not what they appear.
Beauvoir goes on to explain that the cobrador has its roots in the 1300s during the Spanish Inquisition when “lepers, the insane, babies who were born with deformities….those suspected of being witches” were exiled to La Isla del Cobrador. Those strong enough to survive their banishment returned – now cloaked – to torment the people who had expelled them.
And this is what the denizens of Three Pines are dealing with in Glass Houses, the indigeneuos cobrador. “The del frac was added much later by some clever marketer. But this is the real thing. The original,” says Jean-Guy.
Founded by that clever marketer in the 1980’s, a Cobrador del Frac’s sole focus is to humiliate debtors into paying their bills. They accomplish this mission – dressed in topcoats and tails – by literally stalking the insolvent around Spain until they’re so utterly humiliated that they pay up.
El Cobrador del Frac has over 500 employees across Spain and Portugal and the tuxedo-clad collectors are all men, as women are “not deemed imposing enough”.
Clearly the Cobrador del Frac has never met Ruth!