Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

female crime writersA photographic celebration of female crime writers for International Women’s Day.

Some years I have already read most of the CWA International Dagger shortlist before the announcement is made. This year it will be announced at Crimefest on 25 May in Bristol, and unfortunately my limited reading numbers, and the absence of any Liza Marklund’s books on the eligibility list, may mean that I won’t get round to reading all six. But never mind here is my unofficial shortlist from the books I have read, it may be totally out of kilter with the official choices, but at least has a nice geographic spread, with contenders from Argentina, Iceland, South Africa, Denmark, Sweden and Italy .

Sweet Money: Ernesto Mallo translator Katherine Silver

Outrage: Arnaldur Indridason translator Anna Yates

Trackers: Deon Meyer translator K.L.Seegers

The Boy in the Suitcase: Lene Kaaberbol [also translator] & Agnete Friis 

Another Time, Another Life: Leif G.W. Persson translator Paul Norlen

The Potter’s Field: Andrea Camilleri translator Stephen Sartarelli

The cover photo might give you a clue as to which one would be my winner. 


I discovered this meme at Bernadette’s Reactions to Reading and have decided to expand it a little as choosing just one book is tricky in some categories. 

1] Best Book of 2011 originally written in English

The difficulty in choosing a best book even when you read only 19 originally written in English is remembering the impact a book you read in January or February had on you in comparison with one you read two weeks ago. But I would vote for:

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin 

2] Best Books of 2011 translated into English

I read some brilliant translated fiction this year.We are so lucky to have at this time a group of superb translators able to bring these books to an English readership.  

My choices are two very different but equally exceptional books: 

Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen translated by Lisa Hartford aka Tiina Nunnaly 

Trackers by Deon Meyer translated by Laura Seegers 

3] Worst Book of 2011

Most authors regard their books like children, and get very upset at negative reviews. Therefore as part of my New Year resolution to be kinder to everyone, except useless politicians and biased journalists, I am not going to select a book in this category. 😉

4] Most disappointing books

There were a couple that fitted that category. 

The Troubled Man-Henning Mankell: which was very depressing to read if you were a man of a certain age facing some of the problems Wallander does in the book. Actually he is younger than me! Was Henning Mankell suffering a Conan Doyle moment with his popular protagonist? It seemed like it.

River of Shadows-Valerio Varesi: I expected a more appealing protagonist, Soneri was dull and the plot development was catatonic. 

5] Most surprising in a good way

Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was so hyped and had won the CWA Gold Dagger and also been nominated for an Edgar that I was very surprised when it was in fact very good. I rarely agree with prize judges, with the exception of two who weren’t involved in these awards, so it was indeed a pleasant surprise to enjoy this book so much.

6] Book you recommended to people most

The book I recommended to people during the year was Nemesis by Jo Nesbo translated by Don Bartlett. Several people I know had started with The Redbreast and found the WWII backstory  heavy going, and I encouraged them to continue with the series as Nemesis and The Devil’s Star are in my opinion still among the best Nordic crime fiction I have read. 

7] Best series you discovered

This is a difficult one because I think usually you need to read two or three books to discover a series which you are going to stick with through to the end. I have already “discovered” several great series in previous years, which of course I carried on reading this year. Hakan Nesser’s idiosyncratic Van Veeteren stories, Leighton Gage’s Mario Silva and the Brazilian Federal police investigations, Rebecca Cantrell’s Hannah Vogel in pre-war Germany series, John Lawton’s social history of England Troy series, Donna Leon’s Brunettis, Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano mysteries, Ernesto Mallo’s Inspector Lascano’s struggles in Argentina, Fred Vargas and her Inspector Adamsberg, Asa Larsson and her Rebecka Martinssson cases, Jo Nesbo and Harry Hole, Martin Edwards and Hannah Scarlett, Aly Monroe’s Peter Cotton …….the list goes on and on. 

But this year I discovered Jussi Adler Olsen’s Department Q in Mercy and Arne Dahl’s Intercrime series in Misterioso.  Both books translated by the charming Tiina Nunnally.

I hope the publishers arrange for both these series to get translated  in a timely fashion, and the correct order, because they could prove the next big thing in Nordic crime fiction. 

[To be continued]

Sweet Money was first published as Delincuente argentino [Argentinean criminal] in 2007, and continues the story of Lascano, known as Perro [the dog], the honest cop left for dead at the end of Needle in a Haystack. The narrative has moved forward to Buenos Aires in the early 1980s when the junta has fallen, and the democratically elected President Alfonsin is in charge.

‘He looks at the window of the President of Argentina. I bet that’s where he is the fat faggot bastard, that traitor. He got rid of the entire general staff. Passed a bunch of useless laws. Made us think the only ones who’d be put on trial for actions against the guerillas would be the top commanders, the members of the Junta. But when it was their turn to sit in the dock, they opened thir big traps and said they didn’t know what was going on.’

Lascano has been protected during his recovery by Chief Inspector Jorge Turcheli, who has been appointed Chief of Police. But on Jorge’s first day he is murdered by corrupt drug dealing cops known as the Apostles. Now they intend to find and eliminate Lascano.

Meanwhile Miranda [known as Mole] has been released from prison with a few problems, does he have AIDS from the one relationship he had inside; will his stash of money still be there so that he can live with his beautiful wife, the Duchess, and his son in comfort; and will the attractive Susana, the Duchess, even be waiting for him or will she have a new man. 

Lascano is desperate to get hold of some money so he can leave the country and track down his lost love Eva. But he must stay away from the Apostles and gets a job investigating the bank robbery committed by Miranda, and his gang. Miranda’s botched attempt to rob a bank has left him with a million dollars of dirty money, and put him at risk in a world where corrupt cops think of money first and justice second. As well as all this Marcello, a young idealistic prosecutor, wants Lascano to help him clear up the Biterman case [featured in Needle in a Haystack] by confronting the brutal Giribaldi who has now been dismissed from the military and is fuming at his situation. 

You can smell the barbecued meat, the fair winds, the beautiful women, and the prevailing atmosphere of fear, as the story pounds to its conclusion.

This is another superb book from Ernesto Mallo with an evocative atmosphere, great characters, historical information, plots, sub-plots and mini-plots all packed into a mere 220 pages. A smart lesson to those who think you have to write 500 pages to in order to produce a complex thriller. I like the way Mallo’s books use the technique of putting blocks of dialogue in italics with just the speech; it gives an immediacy and almost documentary feel to the novels. I know some people find this annoying but that originality is for me far better than lines of of dialogue with ‘he said’, ‘she said’. 

There are some books that leave an indelible impression on the reader. This in my opinion is one of those books, because the quality and content of the writing is breathtaking and sometimes it leaves you disturbed and thoughtful.

Through the cobbled streets and paved avenues echo the shouts of the tortured, the murdered, the young people thrown from aeroplanes into the sea and the cries of  fathers, mothers, friends and lovers who will forever be missed. Return? To what? To whom? The murderers still walk around, enjoying their freedom and good health. When he thinks about his city, it seems like a place of perennial night, and its name, Buenos Aires, like a cruel joke.

Sweet Money is one of the best thrillers I have read in 2011, and certainly a must read for anyone interested in the recent history of Latin America.

My review of Needle in a Haystack  

Last night we watched the 2010 movie Inside Job which was not about some small bank robbery, but an analysis the financial crisis of 2008. 

To listen to the mumbling of distinguished economics professors such as ******** ********* as they tried to explain their actions, and explain reports they wrote such as ‘Financial Stability in Iceland’ would be amusing in other circumstances. [I have removed the name to avoid any legal ramifications.]

What was really depressing was that the some of the very people who lead us down the deregulated garden path to financial meltdown, and presumably walked away with their personal fortunes intact, are back advising President Obama. 

Only a few hours before I had been reading Sweet Money by Ernesto Mallo, published in Argentina in 2007 as Delincuente argentino and come across this passage proving that crime fiction can usually be found ahead of the game. 

Banks used to look like prisons; now they look like a cross between a boutique and a brothel. The walls are covered with posters showing young men and women, smiling and prosperous, offering package deals with bombastic names, that include bank accounts, credit cards, loans for the life you deserve.

Everything carefully designed to neatly package and tie up the customer. The deviousness here is so obvious that even the guy who designed the poster should be put in jail. 

Samba and Tango

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Argentina, Brazil

Go west young man….

Posted: November 23, 2011 in Argentina, Brazil, Southern States, USA

I have just started reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, a book set in Mississippi. I have driven across various parts of the Border South including Northern Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina and immediately recognised  the descriptions of the small towns, and the people who inhabit them.

He passed a clothing store that had gone so long without customers it’d briefly become a vintage clothing store without changing stock.

I also have two more western hemisphere books to read in the next few weeks. 

A Vine in the Blood: Leighton Gage

Sweet Money: Ernesto Mallo

It may seem premature to think about the contenders for this award, but my fellow bloggers are well advanced in reviewing books that are setting a high standard for the 2012 short list. Even I, at my slower reading pace, have read one and half really brilliant books that should challenge for that short list. 

These are Trackers by Deon Meyer translated from the Afrikaans by Laura Seeger, and thanks to Maxine of Petrona an ARC of The Unlucky Lottery by Hakan Nesser, translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson, which although I am only half way in has had me laughing out loud at the author’s irreverent treatment of the standard police procedural.

The main contenders will probably be books from authors who have won, or at least been nominated previously, but from my sneak peeks at other bloggers reviews, and opinions, there may be some dark horses.

You can visit Karen’s encyclopedic Euro Crime website for a full list of the eligible books, but I am going to select just a dozen hopefuls and see how close I can get to next year’s short list. At this stage most of this will be pure guess work as I haven’t read eleven and a half of the novels yet.

Trackers: Deon Meyer [South Africa]

The Unlucky Lottery: Hakan Nesser [Sweden]

Outrage: Arnaldur Indridason [Iceland]

The Quarry: Johan Theorin [Sweden]

The Boy in the Suitcase: Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis [Denmark]

Until Thy Wrath Be Past: Asa Larsson [Sweden]

Dregs: Jorn Lier Horst [Norway]

The Bat Man: Jo Nesbo [Norway]

Sweet Money: Ernesto Mallo [Argentina]

Temporary Perfections: Gianrico Carofiglio [Italy]

Last Will: Liza Marklund [Sweden]

Disgrace: Jussi Adler-Olsen [Denmark]

These fairly wild guesses are a first draft, and as I read through the contenders, and Karen adds more eligible titles, I will revise and modify my long list, trying eventually to predict the winner.  [The photo shows some Norwegian contenders for the International Dagger] 

Giving opinions about books I haven’t read and know virtually nothing about makes me feel almost like a politician or a journalist, so do feel free to criticize my selections if you have read any of these books, or even if you haven’t. 😉


Posted: August 22, 2011 in Argentina, review

Ines suspects her husband Ernesto is unfaithful, and one  night follows him to his clandestine meeting with his secretary Alicia. She suspects Alicia is the woman who signs herself All Yours and she has dubbed ‘Truelove’, and is not bothered when she sees Ernesto push Alicia into a tree branch. She watches as Ernesto discovers Alicia is dead, and then drives home. Ernesto pushes the body into a lake, and when he confesses to Ines that Alicia was sexually harassing him she provides him with an alibi for that night. Meanwhile Lali, their daughter, is pregnant by her boyfriend, but they are too involved in their own troubles to notice. Several months later Ines realises that Ernesto’s current lover was not Alicia but Alicia’s niece, Charo, and plots a revenge over her husband, which ignores the fact they have a daughter, who needs them desperately.

I really enjoyed Claudia Pineiro’s first book to be translated into English Thursday Night Widows, but was disappointed with All Yours, which has none of the social comment or subtlety of the earlier book. I am probably in a small minority when I say that for me this tale of infidelity, betrayal and revenge was far less perceptive than Thursday Night Widows. It was a hard hitting, sparse book with a neat structure. Ines narrates her chapters in the first person, daughter Lali’s chapters consist purely of dialogue with her friends or strangers, and there is one short passage with Ernesto narrating in the first person. 

Why then did this not work for me?

Firstly Lali’s dialogue pieces in which she converses with working class Argentineans are translated as if these people are cockneys. Lali is referred to as “Mum” which I never worked out was because she was pregnant or the cockney for Ma’am. But when one character shouts “Blimey” I was rapidly transported from Buenos Aires to the Walworth Road, Camberwell and any atmosphere created was lost. Sometimes leaving an exclamation in the original language might be the better course of action.

But the main reason I was not keen on All Yours was that Ines, and Ernesto, were such selfish unappealing characters that I really did not care what happened to them. Ernest is I assume the typical Latin American macho male, and Ines the passive wife with buckets of rage boiling beneath the surface, but willing to accept infidelity as the price of a comfortable life, and social status.

“Ernesto’s a wonderful man,” I thought. He’s not one of those skirt-chasers who play the field, then come home to off-load their guilt.”Darling, I can’t lie to you, I’m afraid I went to bed with your best friend,” they say, to which the only fitting reply is “Lie to me, you bastard-it’s the least I deserve!” 

How sad for Lali with parents like that…….but then perhaps that is what the author wanted the reader to feel. In which case it did work? 

My review of Thursday Night Widows.