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Customer reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 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.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 July 2013
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 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 the architects for a fee. Pablo is put in charge of putting 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 terrific novel goes on to show that the biggest crack of all ultimately appears in the "wall" of Pablo's own stultifying life.
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on 3 November 2013
I didn't manage a willing suspension of disbelief over the whole of this short novel. I might have done in a short story. I just did not think the characters and the events credible. It's not really a novel, nor a mystery, nor a psychological thriller.

The daughter and Leonor were potentially interesting and believable but they had small roles to play.

The Quote one eight (sic)-of-an-inch- Caran D'Ache" and its use as a motif didn't work.

The scenes of dismal marital carnal relations added nothing and came over to me as misandrist.

I am sure the author can write a good novel but not in this genre. Perhaps she could follow up from Leonor and the daughter and explore their lives and what happened to them as BA changes up to the present day.
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on 13 November 2014
very good many thanks
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on 31 May 2016
Brilliant book!
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on 27 June 2016
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