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Sunday, 9 December 2012

Review: The Secret in Their Eyes, Eduardo Sacheri (Argentina)

Title:                        The Secret in Their Eyes (La pregunta de sus ojos)
Author:                     Eduardo Sacheri
Translator:                John Cullen
Publication:              2011, HarperCollins, Canada
Original Publication:  2005, ?
ISBN #:                    978-1-44340-682-6
Pages:                     380
Read as:                  Paper book
Also Available as:     Kobo ebook, Kindle ebook, audio book, DVD (movie)
Discovered by a Google search for Argentina murder mysteries

Benjamín Miguel Chaparro is retiring at the age of 60 after a long career in Argentina's investigative courts. He is a bit nervous about retirement but has decided he will write a book about his most memorable case, one that took place over 30 years ago during the country's Guerra Sucia or Dirty War. He borrows a typewriter from the office and begins.

The case: Ricardo Morales, recently married, suffers a great loss when his young wife is raped and murdered in their home in Buenos Aires. Over time, he shares his thoughts with Chaparro who begins to recognize some of his own thinking. Chaparro decides he must do everything he can to help Morales and bring the murderer to justice.

There are actually two books here: the one we are reading - about Chaparro's early days in retirement, his struggles as a writer, and his unrequited love - and the one Chaparro is writing. The author takes an interesting approach to make it easy for the reader to know which is which. He uses three methods: the typefaces are different in "our book" and Chaparro's, the chapter headings have names in "our book" but only numbers in Chaparro's, and "our book" is written in the third person while Chaparro's is written in the first person. As a result, you move seamlessly through the chapters.

Halfway through, both the reader and Chaparro wonder where to next: "Would that be the best conclusion for the story he's telling?...(he) suspects that if he pushes ahead, everything will go to hell, his story will overflow its banks, and his characters will wind up acting at their own whim..." He does continue and everything does go to hell...but the story does not overflow and the characters behave themselves.

The author creates and outlines wonderful characters such as Sandoval his alcoholic friend and colleague, and Irene the judge he loves, and he provides enough character background to make them interesting and real without their stories interfering with the main story lines. The translator's brief note at the beginning helps to clarify how the judicial system is set up and to explain the era in which Chaparro's book is set. The translation is well done and very readable.

The mystery is very good and the portrayal of a man grieving a great loss is realistic and emotional. It is unnerving to see how life goes on, how people still go to work every day, even when horrific events are taking place in your country.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, with lots of mystery and atmosphere.

(Side note: the book was made into a movie in 2009 and won the 2010 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as numerous other awards in South America and Europe.)


  1. I'm looking for South American crime novels for this year's Global Reading Challenge and just found your review. I think I'll try the book and the movie!

    1. Will look forward to hearing what you think of both, Rebecca!