Jennifer Palmer has read crime fiction since her teenage years & enjoys reviewing within the many sub-genres that now exist; as a historian who lectures on real life historical mysteries she particularly appreciates historical cime fiction.
A group of appealingly ordinary characters are investigating a murder from a journalistic point of view. The chilling story that emerges from their research, scales the highest echelons of Argentinian society, while having its roots buried deep in the past.
If Betty Boo makes you think of Betty Boop the perky American cartoon character, well that is intentional! It is the old nickname for Argentinian writer, Nurit Iscar. Now middle aged, she becomes involved in a newspaper report on the murder of a wealthy, and somewhat murky man in a very exclusive gated community in Buenos Aires. The atmosphere of this community is superbly conveyed - the reiteration of the experiences of various characters arriving there, and the detailed and long winded checks they must undergo really makes that point abundantly clear.
The background of Argentinian attitudes and the history that has spawned them is fascinating - some participants have revolutionary pasts while others work for the existing regime, a regime seen by many as sunk in corruption. Since the theme is crime we get a history of famous cases - solved and unsolved - as a veteran crime reporter recently demoted tries to educate his hapless young replacement who is referred to throughout as Crime boy. Friendships new and old feature strongly as the story around the murdered man develops. It expands to what appears at first to be an unlikely theory, but the three central investigators use their differing strengths and skills to fill out the details of a monstrous crime in the present, and also in the past.
The style takes some getting used to but it is well worth persevering. It is rather like a stream of consciousness, but not by one single protagonist - the point of view changes as the ball passes from one to another. All is in reported speech, so in the same section you can go from the thoughts in a person's head to his or her reported remarks to other people. It requires a degree of concentration from the reader rather like that required for reading subtitles on a foreign film. Lengthy passages are the norm, though chapters are short and terse.
This crime novel is a refreshing change from the Anglo-American norm, and all the more interesting for that. Characterised as a ‘crime novel’ seems the right description, for the characters, their situations and their interactions are as valuable to the plot, as is the crime that unfolds from the narrative.