Top positive review
One person found this helpful
Argentinian thriller that's "a cracker"
on 13 June 2013
Pablo Simó is an architect on the verge of a mid life crisis. His work, marriage and general life is governed more by habit and routine than anything, leaving him to ponder over the attractions of his colleague Marta with whom he suspects his boss may be having a relationship. When a young girl enters the office asking if anyone knows a man called Nelson Jara, the three architects deny all knowledge, but they do know him. He was involved in a claim that one of the practice's projects caused a crack in the wall of his apartment and how this was resolved is something all three of them would rather forget.
Argentinian crime writer, Claudia Piňeiro's 2009 novel is translated by Miranda France. The translation feels quite direct in that it never feels like you are reading anything other than a book in translation which does lead to something of a sense of "otherness" about the book. But that small gripe aside, this is a thoughtful and thriller style book about greed, guilt, ambition and breaking free of the rat race.
The crime at the centre of the story and the perpetrators of that crime are revealed fairly early on, but exactly what happened and how it came to pass are gradually teased out as Pablo befriends the young girl, Leonor, and Piňeiro keeps some nicely plotted surprises up her sleeve until the very end.
She has a genuine feel for the architecture element of her protagonists and there are constant references to various buildings in Buenos Aires that make you want to look up pictures of them, while at the same time documenting the gradual erosion of this architectural heritage by soulless office developments.
Pablo's life of routine is nicely evoked. His marriage is held together by the arguments over their apparently rebellious teenage daughter, although in fact she is probably no more rebellious than most teenage girls. While at first Pablo comes over as somewhat dull and fastidious - he's a man who has to have his pencil just so on his desk - the reader soon starts to appreciate the position he is in, if not some of his actions and his fantasies about various women.
There is one particular moment where Pablo finds himself in his daughter's room trying to bond with his daughter who is listening to music that he doesn't know. His daughter tells him only that it is Leonard Cohen. Piňeiro is too subtle a writer to make this an explicit reference but presumably a reference to his "Anthem" whose refrain includes the lines:
"There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."
In fact, she takes her epigraph for the book from F Scott Fitzgerald's "The Crack-Up", but the Cohen line would have been equally appropriate. Either way, it's still a "cracking" read.