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Not so sweet Argentina
on 1 September 2011
This is a book which grows on you. I hadn't read the earlier book so I didn't know what to expect. To say the least, the style of writing takes a bit of getting used to, especially as there can be an entire page or more of dialogue all contained in one large paragraph. It does make the reader concentrate which is no bad thing, actually. Once you get used to this, the story begins to unfold with some rapidity. And there's a lot going on. Not only are there vicious internecine rivalries in the Police Force, the overflowing of their barbarism leads into the social lives of the main protagonists. There is a slight diffuculty, too, with the personal names, since some male names appear, at first, to relate to female characters.
However, we are in Buenos Aires just after the collapse of the Junta and crime is endemic in all strata of society. This, again, causes confusion for the reader, as Mallo's style is to land you with a quick and unexpected death almost out of the blue.
But somehow it works very well. The dark undertones of a grubby city with grubby people only help to develop some excellent scene setting by this talented author. Of course, without the translation from the Spainsh, we'd be a bit lost so some high commendation to Katherine Silver for her work.
Superintendent Lascano has a tough job dealing with his superiors, a rather soft-hearted and likeable bank robber and a search for his missing girlfriend, Eva, whilst the thief similarly struggles with a useless band of helpers and a wife intent on leaving him.
That the main players find their lives intertwined makes this a very engaging book. One is never quite sure how it will pan out and shades of 'Casablanca' insinuate themselves into the curtain call.
As I said, after a slow start, I became really involved and wished that he book was somewhat longer than its 220 or so pages. But keep in mind, not a word is wasted on the page so it's still good value. It would help to read book one beforehand but, as I hadn't even heard of Ernesto Mallo, I soon became bewitched, disregarded the references to the earlier book and now, most certainly, want to look out for book three.