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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last! English Ernesto.
As an avid fan of crime fiction, I was first introduced to Mr Mallo by an Argentine friend. Unfortunately I don't speak or read Spanish. When I read in a Guardian review that 'The Needle in the Haystack' was now available in English, I rushed out and bought a copy.

If you like your crime 'hard-boiled' but with an alternative background (70's Argentina in the...
Published on 16 Jun 2010 by Henry Chinaski

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good cop in a Dirty War
Set against the Argentine military junta's brutal Dirty War against "subversives" in its own population, this is one of those tales of a good cop in a corrupt system. While Perro Lascano investigates a double/triple murder (which he eventually solves with unsatisfactory ease), the junta abducts and murders dozens of people throughout the book.
Lascano is one...
Published 10 months ago by Spencer Feeney


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last! English Ernesto., 16 Jun 2010
This review is from: Needle in a Haystack (Paperback)
As an avid fan of crime fiction, I was first introduced to Mr Mallo by an Argentine friend. Unfortunately I don't speak or read Spanish. When I read in a Guardian review that 'The Needle in the Haystack' was now available in English, I rushed out and bought a copy.

If you like your crime 'hard-boiled' but with an alternative background (70's Argentina in the time of the juntas) and with a fresh writing style, you'll enjoy this book. Incidentally, don't think that just because it's a translated version it's not the 'real thing', my Argentine friend who is fluent in English has told me that the translation is superb and captures the essence and style of the original Spanish perfectly.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crime Amidst Argentina's Dirty War, 3 Jun 2010
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Needle in a Haystack (Paperback)
Like most Americans, I know almost nothing of Argentine history -- however, unlike most, I do at least know that there was a very nasty internal conflict known as the "Dirty War" some thirty or so years ago (like everything relating to the Dirty War, different people have different ideas on the start and end dates). I knew, in broad terms, that a military junta seized power and waged a brutal campaign of repression against various left-wing elements in society, ranging from armed guerrilla groups to leftist intelligentsia. I know that people were snatched from their homes, the streets, wherever, never to be seen again ("disappeared" in the infamous phraseology), while daily life went on more or less as normal.

What I didn't know is what that era felt like. This first in a trilogy featuring Buenos Aries police Superintendent "Perro" Lascano, takes place in the midst of the Dirty War, and brings it to life. As the book opens, he is called out to look into a report of two bodies lying at the end of a dirt road. However, when he gets there, he finds three bodies -- two executed leftists, and a third man completely unlike the others. What follows is a pretty straightforward procedural, as Lascano methodically assembles clues, interviews people, and figures out who the mystery man is and why he was killed. Of course, his investigation takes him into the murky waters of the junta and its friends, and he has to tread carefully to avoid being disappeared himself.

He's a classic Chandleresque detective, a loner, haunted by the memory of his dead wife, world-weary, etc., but along the way he acquires a love interest who rekindles his spark. The investigation isn't particularly clever, as the Lascano is easy able to trace them, literally picking up clues along the way. But the lurking danger of military involvement hangs over everything and gives the story a deep sense of menace. The book's one big flaw is in how it renders dialogue: speech is set in italics in long unbroken blocks of alternating sentences, so that you have to keep careful track of whose "turn" it is to speak. It's a really strange decision, and makes dialogue a total pain for the reader. For those with an interest in modern Argentine history, or the international crime fiction, it's worth making the effort.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good cop in a Dirty War, 1 Jun 2013
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Set against the Argentine military junta's brutal Dirty War against "subversives" in its own population, this is one of those tales of a good cop in a corrupt system. While Perro Lascano investigates a double/triple murder (which he eventually solves with unsatisfactory ease), the junta abducts and murders dozens of people throughout the book.
Lascano is one of those tormented cops who feature in many crime novels; he grieves for his dead wife. One of the plot's more unlikely turns is when Lascano raids a brothel and discovers a revolutionary prostitute who happens to be the exact double of his wife.
Mallo adopts a strange stylistic device; all dialogue is presented as lengthy single paragraphs, with minimal punctuation which does not include quotation marks. It is not difficult to decipher who is saying what to whom; but it is difficult to see what purpose this serves.
Mallo does not give us great insights into the motivation behind the Dirty War; he simply presents the protagonists' murderous actions.
This is the first of a trilogy of Lascano novels; if you enjoy them, then also try Philip Kerr's similar (but in my view better) novels about Bernie Gunther, a Berlin cop in Nazi Germany.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful novel., 24 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Needle in a Haystack (Paperback)
Mallo's story is a succinct, gripping account of a cop trying to survive in a corrupt regime. His investigations unearth a web of intrigue and murder, carried out by police colleagues under the orders of the military dictators in late seventies Argentina.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dark days in BA, 11 Aug 2013
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This book is set in a very dark period of Argentinas history and I was intrigued to see how Mallo could weave a story about an honest cop through a brutal and dangerous era. He succeeds pretty well and at the same time takes you through a journey around Buenos Aires which reminded me vividly of my time there many years ago.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Not a good read, 5 Aug 2013
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A disjointed read, with no real coherent strategy. None of the principal character does not have a powerful presence to drive the events along and taking the reader on a journey through a terrible period in the history of Argentina.
The story revolves around a cliche ridden policeman, dead wife etc etc. a quirky pathologist smokes pot, a nasty military officer with a deranged wife, and a murder of a Jewish money lender.
Having been in Argentina during this period I think the novel is insulting to those who suffered at the hands of the
a corrupt and vicious state.
This reads like painting a story by numbers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars informative and entertaining slice of noir with a great ending., 14 May 2012
By 
Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Needle in a Haystack (Paperback)
Needle in a Haystack is a noir crime novel blended with social/political observation. The story is not driven by a `whodunnit' or `howdunnit' narrative, as it is fairly clear from the start who killed the third body and why. Rather the hook is who will win out between Lascano and Giribaldi; whether justice will prevail. I'll avoid a spoiler, but needless to say the book has one of the best endings to a novel I've read so far this year. Throughout the characterisation and social relations are keenly portrayed and the prose is well crafted. The plot is relatively straightforward, but that doesn't detract from the reading experience. There were one or two things that didn't quite ring right, such as Biterman's backstory, but otherwise one felt immersed in the claustrophobic life of Buenos Aires in the late 1970s. Overall, an informative and entertaining slice of noir, lifted by a great ending.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read, 25 Dec 2010
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G. M. Sinstadt - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Needle in a Haystack (Paperback)
Strong on atmosphere, complex in structure, Needle in a Haystack doesn't read easily. The author comes at his story from various angles through an assortment of characters. Concentration and patience are required to remember who is Amancio and who is Biterman. A certain amount of indulgence may be thought necessary to believe in Eva.

Then there is the issue of dialogue presented in single long italicised paragraphs. It is undoubtedly possible to work out who speaks first and who replies, but it requires an effort to deal with what comes to seem tiresomely like a stylistic gimmick.

Needle in a Haystack and its successor are apparently being turned into films. Hopefully, they will be easier to follow.
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Needle in a Haystack
Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo (Paperback - 10 Jun 2010)
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