Wednesday, 9 November 2011
WHO KILLED PALOMINO MOLERO? By Mario Vargas Llosa
The first book of Mario Vargas Llosa's I ever read was FEAST OF THE GOAT, a phenomenally wonderful novel about the last days of the dictatorship of Trujillo. The final chapters are so grisly that I actually had to skip pages – like closing your eyes in a movie – something I've virtually never had to do with a book. I read it in one sitting, on a twelve hour bus ride to Acapulco, which probably contributed to the intensity of the experience. (What also made for an intense experience was that at hour nine or so, a bunch of armed men in army fatigues got on the bus, and started screaming at us all in Spanish. I don't speak Spanish, so was reduced to desperately trying to recall if the country people were always getting abducted in was Columbia or Mexico. Anyway, I was not abducted, though some men did get off who never got on again.)
Anyway, this book, read on a plane ride in Ethiopia, is nothing like that one.
It is, bizarrely, a piece of detective fiction, set in 1950s Peru. Palomino Molero is 'a skinny kid who sang boleros' who is found brutally murdered. A pair of detectives set off on his trail, tracing the crime right to the highest echelons of the military. The ending is satisfyingly twisted. It is then very much a genre novel, but a very clever one. It manages to trace a strange path through questions of class, race and gender in Peru, and create a very rich picture of a fishing village in that country fifty years ago.
A short and satisfying book.