In this deliciously wicked new novel, her best one yet, Argentinian author Claudia Pineiro, focuses once again on the evil that lurks within the hearts of men, even those who seem innocent or numbed by their own circumstances. Honestly does not seem to enter the equation here, as Pineiro once again mines a theme which also appears in her two previous novels in translation. As dark (even cynical) as the theme seems to be, the author works it with a light hand, employing surprisingly little violence (which usually takes place "offstage") and creating characters who often bumble their way through the complex mazes of their lives and into situations over which they believe they have little control. Life in Buenos Aires may appear dark here, but Pineiro's characters take their circumstances for granted and do what they believe they must do to succeed. In the process, they become understandable - and all too human in their weaknesses.
Pablo Simo, the forty-five-year-old architect and main character, has been married to Laura for eleven thousand seventy days. Though he does not believe he is in love with her any longer, neither has he strayed much farther than the realms of imagination. Though the architectural firm where he works has been extremely successful and Pablo Simo has been there for almost twenty years, he is not a partner, for reasons that he never even bothers to question. He spends his spare time at his desk making hundreds of designs for an imagined eleven-story apartment tower which he hopes that one day he will be able to build on his own.
When attractive, 28-year-old Leonor comes to the office looking for Nelson Jara, someone with whom she says she has business, the firm's two partners pretend that they have no idea who Jara is, and Pablo just keeps his mouth shut. By page twelve, however, the reader learns that Nelson Jara is dead - "buried a few feet beneath the concrete floor...exactly where they [all] left him that night, three years ago." Jara had approached the firm when a huge crack developed in the wall of his apartment, located beside the firm's biggest building project. He has threatened to report the architects for not working to code, though he is willing to come to some "accommodation" with them for a fee. Pablo is assigned to put Jara off for a week, but when it ends, so does Jara.
Author Pineiro provides one surprise after another in the aftermath of the murder, many of them the result of coincidences which, while unlikely, make the story much more fun to read and imagine. Irony piles on top of irony as Pablo's predictable life becomes more and more crazy. In addition to his residual guilt about his role in the murder, he is dealing with a teenage daughter who is out of control, a wife who may have a lover, and a strong desire to find out what love really is. The action is fast and furious, Pablo is suitably dense as a protagonist, and few readers will predict the grand outcomes of this clever and very amusing novel. Beautifully paced, despite an architectural side trip to photograph Buenos Aires's most interesting buildings, this exciting novel goes on to show that the biggest crack of all ultimately appears in the "wall" of Pablo's own stultifying life.