Latin American Crime Fiction Reading List

Here’s my list of potential reads from South and Central America for the 2013 Global Reading Challenge. I’ve compiled these from several websites, particularly Teaching College- Level Spanish and several library lists of international fiction.

I’ve included links to my reviews below as well.

Argentina

  1. Claudia Piñeiro: Thursday Night Widows
  2. Guillermo Martínez: The Oxford Murders, The Book of Murder
  3. Ricardo Piglia: Money to Burn (Plata Quemada)- very dark, based on a true story about a bank heist.
  4. Juan José Saer: The Witness; The Investigation
  5. Mempo Giardinelli: Tenth Circle, Sultry Moon
  6. Juan Martini: El cerco, Puerto Apache– not translated
  7. José Pablo Feinmann: Últimos días de la víctima- not translated
  8. Juan Sasturain: not translated
  9. Ernesto Mallo: Needle in a Haystack, Sweet Money
  10. Guillermo Orsi: No One Loves a Policeman, Holy City
  11. Carlos Gamerro: El secreto y las voces
  12. Matías Néspolo: Seven Ways to Kill a Cat
  13. Eduardo Sacheri: The Secret in Their Eyes
  14. Tomás Eloy Martínez: Purgatory
  15. Elsa Osorio: My Name Is Light

Mexico

  1. Paco Ignacio Taibo II:  An Easy Thing; No Happy Ending; Shadow of Shadow– historical novel, takes place in Mexico City after the Mexican Revolution
  2. Rolo Diez: Luna de Escarlata, Papel picado
  3. Juan Hernández Luna:  Las mentiras de la luz; Quiza otros labios; Tabaco para el puma
  4. Martin Solares

Cuba

  1. Leonardo Padura- Havana Blue– I wasn’t a fan of the gender problems in this first outing in the Havana Quartet (Las cuatro estaciones).
  2. Mayra Montero: Dancing to Almendra
  3. José Latour: Hidden in Havana

Colombia

  1. Santiago Gamboa: Necropolis

Brazil

  1. Rubem Fonseca
  2. Patricia Melo
  3. Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza- The Silence of the Rain (first book in Inspector Espinosa series)
  4. Leighton Gage

Chile

  1. Ramón Díaz Eterovic
  2. Roberto Ampuero: The Neruda Case (Cayetano Brulé series)

Guatemala

  1. Mark Brazaitas: Steal My Heart

Bolivia

  1. Juan de Recacoechea: American Visa

Peru

  1. Alonso Cueto: Blue Hour
  2. Santiago Roncagliolo: Red April

2013 Reading Challenges

2013 global reading challenge

2013transchallenge-3

This year I’m going to try two reading challenges:  one that I expect to be easy, and one I expect to be a stretch.

First, I’m joining the 2013 Translation Challenge where the goal is to read 12 translated books during the year.  This one I plan to meet quite easily.  I hope not to just read Swedish crime fiction to meet this challenge, but that may very well happen.

Second, and more challengingly, I’m joining the 2013 Global Reading Challenge at the expert level.  I plan on reading three books from each continent (and for Antarctica I plan on reading some historical fiction).  My weak spots in my reading last year were fiction set in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.

The Power of Three by Laura Lippman

power of threeThe Power of Three by Laura Lippman (published as To the Power of Three in the U.S.)
Orion, 2005
Source: I bought this book.

The Power of Three is the story of three high school seniors, friends since elementary school, who are involved in a school shooting a week just before their graduation. One girl, Kat, the class valedictorian is dead, her friend Perri, a drama star is gravely wounded, and Josie the competitive cheerleader is shot in the foot. The Power of Three takes place over the course of the week between the shooting and high school graduation as the police investigate what really happened in the high school bathroom in a swanky, northern Baltimore County suburb. The official story is that Perri shot Kat and Josie and then shot herself, but, of course, that is not the truth.

The actual investigation of the crime is not the focus of this book: it’s the story of the three girls’ friendship and the world of high school girls. Lippman focuses on teenage and adult characters: the police, the school staff, the parents, and the three girls and their close friends. Lenhardt, one of the detectives, says at one point that he’s more interested in an eyewitness and physical evidence rather than motives. As a detective he’s seen lots of rationalizations or lack of rationalizations for murders. Lippman obviously disagrees because she spends the bulk of this hefty book (430 pages in my edition) telling the story of the girls and their friends. Oddly enough, she doesn’t spend much time in Kat or Perri’s heads, which is a bit of a disappointing since they are two thirds of the core group of friends involved in the shooting.

The story begins with a chapter from the perspective of Alexa, a young guidance counselor who has degrees in rhetoric and psychology and whose research focuses on rumors in schools. One thing she aims to do in her work is “allow students to express their feelings without encouraging their paranoia.” (p.180) She is the window into the girls’ worlds, and she’s in our shoes as an outsider. This book feels very much like a journalist delving into the backstory of a school shooting in an affluent town. (Lippman worked for the Baltimore Sun as a reporter for years before she became a full-time crime writer.)

It’s funny that the blurb on the front of the edition of my book talks about the wonderful pacing of the story while I actually felt it to be kind of slow. It was interesting, but it was not a book that I had to finish in a short period of time because I needed to find out what happened next. What kept my interest were the characters who are all trying to cope with the shooting. The actual explanation for the shooting is not the strong part of the story, and I think that’s intentional.  I’m as let down by the rationalizations for the shootings as Lenhardt is. I did enjoy this book, but I prefer books with a bit more plot than this one had.

I also reviewed Laura Lippman’s By a Spider’s Thread.