Intricately woven. Complex. Del Árbol's first novel translated into English is a rich skein of a thriller that had me hooked from the start. Who are these people? How are they related? Are they related? Are they who they seem to be? My questions swam from chapter to chapter as my admiration grew for Del Árbol and his ability to track the fates of so many characters. There are over a dozen; but who's counting? I am, because even though this is María Bengoachea's story, each character contributes important plot points.
Spanning over forty years and three generations, the narrative rolls a meandering course. Like life itself, the story is far from linear. The only thing that follows a direct path is culpability. It is a key theme that spans all the story arcs as people are murdered, abandoned, abused, lied to, kidnapped, cheated on and plotted against. Oh yes. It is all here and more. And Del Árbol doesn't pull any punches. There is no flinching from the graphic, unabashed cruelty some people possess. Others, though, are merely cowards who believe that if they don't talk about the past, the meanness of their youth, it will just fade away.
No such luck. Culpability doesn't forget. In Del Árbol's world, chickens come home to roost even if it takes decades. And people who think they are in control of their own lives, their destinies, find out with heartbreaking irony they are little more than pawns being played on a chessboard. No one is certain about who is trustworthy, who might be their hero. Politics plays a role, shifting from motivation to landscape and back, a vehicle for showcasing humanity's often antithetical dimensions.
I have to applaud any author who can weave so many threads into such a smart, fascinating yarn. So I am purposely not giving away plot details or character names (save María's) here. It would spoil the fun. If you like your thrillers simple, straightforward, good-guys/bad-guys, this is not a novel for you. But if, like me, you like to savor a sophisticated chiller then by all means dig into this one.
This review is from the May 30, 2012 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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