A roller coaster ride. The expression is a cliché, but there is nothing trite about this novel, and no other phrase describes as well the almost physical feeling of racing up and down steep inclines at breakneck speed that reading it induces.
You start out in a sad yet unexceptional situation, but a few pages later, you’re off, in one horrifying direction after another, through to the last paragraph. And wherever it takes you, you never saw it coming. An easily winnable bet would be to challenge someone to put it down after the first chapter.
Told in the first person, the use of a quite subjective, probably unreliable narrator adds another layer of uncertainty to a reader trying to ascertain where the fictional “truth” and the fantasy lie.
You could call it a crime novel, a piece of social commentary, a psychological thriller, and you would be right.
Both the the narration and the dialogue are rendered in short declarative sentences. The language is standard Spanish, with virtually no regionalisms, qualities that make it especially appropriate for translation. The style might be considered “Hemingwayesque,” but not really. This man’s voice is all his own.
Although the landscape, the mountainous area around Manizales, Colombia, is ever present, it does not make the story more “local” but, rather, universal. In fact, the cover of the Spanish paperback edition, which for a number of reasons features El Greco’s “View of Toledo,” seems entirely appropriate.
The author has received literary awards for his varied output, ranging from short stories to “experimental studies” to historical fiction to “noir” novels. The current volume won the City of Barbastro’s 2014 International Short Novel Award.