Roberto Ampuero's novels starring the wonderfully roguish Cayetano Brulé are an international sensation. In The Neruda Case, readers are introduced to Cayetano as he takes on his first case as a private eye. Set against the fraught political world of pre-Pinochet Chile, Castro's Cuba, and perilous behind-the-Wall East Berlin, this mystery spans countries, cultures, and political ideas, and features one of literature's most beloved figures - Pablo Neruda.
Cayetano meets the poet at a party in Chile in the 1970s. The dying Neruda recruits Cayetano to help him solve the last great mystery of his life. As Cayetano fumbles around his first case, finding it hard to embrace the new inspector identity foisted upon him, he begins to learn more about Neruda's hidden agenda. Neruda sends him on a whirlwind expedition around the world, ending back in Chile, where Pinochet's coup plays out against the final revelations of their journey.
Evocative, romantic, and full of intrigue, Ampuero's novel is both a glimpse into the life of Pablo Neruda as death approaches and a political thriller that unfolds during the fiercely convulsive end of an era.
The Neruda Case
What could be bothering the partners of Almagro, Ruggiero & Associates, who had asked him to appear at their headquarters in such a hurry? Cayetano Brulé wondered one warm February morning as he left his office in the attic of the Turri Building, in the heart of Valparaíso's financial district, and took the elevator down to Prat Street. Ever since democracy was restored, AR&A had become the most inf luential consulting firm in the country, and it was rumored that no stipulation or public litigation of any importance could pass without its sanction. Its tentacles spanned from the presidential palace to the neo-Gothic headquarters of businessmen, and from Congress to the National Comptroller's Office, passing through ministries, political parties, embassies, and courts. Its attorneys could not only obtain laws and decrees, subsidies and pardons, exemptions, and amnesties, but also wash away disgrace and polish the prestige of public figures down on their...
The Neruda Case is a fun summer read, a great introduction to the work of a beloved Chilean author, and is worth a read for the terrific atmosphere alone. At a time when "staycation" has become a buzzword, The Neruda Case is the best kind of armchair travel there is. Ampuero's breezy read is an absolute winner. Mix yourself a pisco sour and dive right in.
(Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
Full Review (1154 words).
The country of Chile might be a vibrant democracy now - its shining "Jewel of the Pacific," Valparaíso, lined with upscale businesses and boutique hotels - but there have been turbulent upheavals in its recent political history, and the country's preeminent poet, Nobel Laureate, Pablo Neruda (born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto), was a significant player in these events.
A left-leaning intellectual, Neruda wasted no time in praising Joseph Stalin and the USSR for helping to prevent the Nazi takeover of Europe. In time, however, as he became disillusioned with the man, Neruda's support for Stalin declined, but he remained sympathetic to communist ideals and became an official member of the Communist Party of Chile in July ...
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