Monday, July 19, 2010

Needle in a Haystack-Ernesto Mallo

Needle in a Haystack
Ernesto Mallo
Bitter Lemon, Sep 1 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781904738565

In 1976 in Buenos Aires, Police Superintendent “Perro” Lascano investigates a double homicide. When he arrives at the crime scene, he finds three corpses. Two of the bodies are dressed similar in jeans and polo neck shirts and have numerous bullet wounds, which is evidence that the Junta death squad executed the pair as they share responsibility in case of accountability. The third dead person is different as he is much older and wears a suit and tie; however, the biggest difference is he has one bullet wound. The cop is unauthorized to look into the political killings of the jean wearers as that is disallowed but he can investigate the dead suit.

Lascano meets Eva, a dissident running from the Army. She looks like his late wife Marisa, who died in a car accident. He conceals Eva who gives him a reason to live as he has been despodent since Maria’s death. Menwhile Lascano and his friend Fuseli the forensic pathologist identify the older victim as moneylender and Auschwitz survivor Elias Biterman. Lascano learns that Elias’ younger brother Horacio introduced him to his decadent friend Amancio. The lender lent money to Amancio. Lascano thinks bankrupt Amancio is the killer or hired the killer, but needs to prove his assertion in a society in which no one seems to care.

Ernesto Mallo uses the official police investigation to focus on the atrocities and moral rationalizations of those in charge. Readers will need to make a slight adjustment to the unusual technique of first person dialogue with no identification as to the speaker; a metaphor of death squads. Once the audience adapts, the story line is fast-paced throughout especially the climax. This is a strong historical that look s deeply at how society failed to protect its citizens especially the young.

Harriet Klausner

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