OLGUIN’S ON THE RIGHT TRACK WITH A HIGH SPEED STORY FROM BUENOS AIRES

Standard

The Fragility of Bodies CoverThe adage goes about regular gamblers, ‘that they’d bet on two flies walking up a wall…”. Years ago, betting shops where the only way to place a bet, primarily on horses and dogs. Also back then, they were predominantly a male preserve. Dark and seedy places, that gave off a totally uninviting image. Nowadays, you can watch live races while drinking freshly made coffee and, owing to the removal of the boards which covered the windows of their predecessors, they are now light and airy places that want to entice customers of any age or sex.

However, with the development of the internet and social media, the modern betting shop is on the decline and the ability to gamble is easier today than at any time in the past. But despite this there is still a dark side to gambling where, shady back street bookies and fronts for criminal organizations can launder dirty money while taking bets on any manner of weird activity. Although your perception of weird and mine may differ, but if you have the money, there will always be someone willing to bet against you on any activity you maybe watching or engaged in. Whether it be, dog fighting, hare coursing, a cockerel fight or people playing chicken with a moving vehicle.

The final example is the premise for this months second book review, it’s the Fragility Of Bodies by Segio Olguin, published by Bitter Lemon press on the 11th July 2019 (www.bitterlemonpress.com).

Veronica Rosenthal is a young Argentinian journalist with a leading weekly magazine in Buenos Aires. She decides to follow up what seem likes a straight forward crime piece on a train driver who has committed suicide, leaving a note saying he was sorry for the deaths of the four boys. What she initially thinks is the confession of a serial killer, leads her to investigate the unusually high number of suicides on the Buenos Aires railway network, which seem to all involve young boys. Talking to colleagues of the driver who committed suicide, she discovers that at the time of the incidents, there are reports of witnesses to the apparent suicides. Her investigation awakens her promiscuous streak and she starts up a relationship with the married friend and colleague of the driver, who has also been involved in a number of these supposed suicides. As things progress it turns out there is some sort of weird game being played here that the underworld is gambling on. Her investigation in turn brings her into direct conflict with the games organizers and this has implications for both her, her family and the families of the boys involved. Can Veronica stay one step ahead of the criminal gangs organizing this sordid game of chicken and in doing so complete her expose and save other boys from being needlessly killed and break the criminal network involved?

The first thing that gets you about this book, is that its lead character is not shy, especially in the bedroom department. Veronica Rosenthal has the morals of a tom cat and would give 007 a run for his money in the womanizing/man eating stakes. In this book alone, Veronica beds more than one man, including a priest…  So, she comes across as more of a nymphomaniac than a crusading journalist. Yes, I like my characters to be complicated and to have busy lives or interesting hobbies, but at times her insatiable sexual appetite ends up being more of a distraction.

Sergi Olguin

Sergio Olguin (Alchetron.com)

As for the main plotline this is a refreshing and totally believable storyline, People have been playing the dangerous game of chicken on railway lines for years. Figures from Network Rail in the UK for 2016 showed there were 8000 reported incidents of people on the tracks. Of that 555 were children and half of those killed on train tracks were under 25 years of age.

That this book is also set in a country with great divides of wealth and poverty and where the criminal fraternity thrive with their brothels and underground gambling dens, which allow punters to gamble freely on any sort of activity, while also praying on the weak and needy (in the book the participants are paid 20 Pesos for taking part and 100 pesos if they win). The Fragility Of Bodies is a page turner that had me intrigued from the first to the three hundredth and eightieth page, but again at times I did think it was a bit long.

Of the characters, Veronica and the two boys she ends up  trying to save are the onlyChicken with train interesting ones. The criminal and gangland figures are stereotypical and after that, there are many others who only serve to complicate and overcrowd an already busy storyline.

This is Argentinian author Sergio Olguin’s (@olguinserg)  first novel to be translated into English. He’s a successful writer in Argentina where his previous books have already been translated into German, Italian and French. In Argentina, he’s also a scriptwriter and editor of cultural publications. The Fragility Of Bodies is the first of a crime trilogy featuring the journalist Veronica Rosenthal.

So, if you are looking for fresh new story and heroine, set in the overcrowded and warm streets of the Argentinian capital, then you could do no wrong by getting in with Veronica Rosenthal. Then afterwards await the next installment of this series.

 

Reviewed by :  Adrian Murphy

 

This book is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their sites listed  below and then after you’ve read the book, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d love to hear your feedback.

The Fragility of Bodies BT Poster

PASTOR’S SPANISH MYSTERY IS ON SONG MOST OF THE TIME.

Standard

The Horseman's Song CoverEvery year particularly around the D-Day anniversary in June and Armistice in November, hundreds of friends and relatives and remaining few survivors make the pilgrimage to the world war battle field sites scattered across northern France and Belgium. I know friends who have done it, but it’s something I’ve never done and would like to do, especially the to the Civil War battle sites in America.  One thing you never hear about though, is people going to visit the Spanish Civil War battle sites ( apart from probably the Spanish of course).  Although a quick google does bring up guided tours of their sites. It’s strange I haven’t heard more about the Spanish Civil War, especially in Ireland, considering the couple of thousand Irish men who went over to fight on both sides of the war. This month’s second book review and blog tour is set during the Spanish Civil War, it’s  The Horseman’s Song by Ben Pastor and published by Bitter Lemon Press (www.bitterlemonpress.com) on the 14th February.

Spain 1937, in the midst of the bloody Spanish Civil we find German  Officer and Detective, Martin Von Bora assigned to the Sierras of Aragon in South Western Spain. Where he’s fighting with the Spanish Foreign Legion. There he discovers the body of Federico Garcia Lorca , the brilliant Spanish poet and playwright, as he begins what will be a perilous investigation into the murder, he discovers Walton his opposite number in  the International Brigades is also looking into Lorca’s death, as he was a friend of the victim. Soon Bora and Walton join forces and their joint investigation culminates in a thrilling chase after writers  killer.

This is the sixth novel in Ben Pastor’s historical detective series featuring Martin Von Bora but my first occasion to make his acquaintance.  Researching the other novels prior to writing this I was surprised to find that this is a prequel, being set during the Spanish Civil War. Reading the book, I was intrigued to wonder how Pastor would continue the series, with Von Bora, A Wehrmacht Officer, as a sympathetic lead character as he progressed into the era of World War Two. I anticipated waiting for the next novel to be released but it seems I just need to return to the first and read on from there.

I found this an engrossing read. It is certainly a slow burn. Pastor is known for her accurate wartime settings and this is the case here. However, she doesn’t give us an overall history lesson. She focuses attention on one death and on the lives of two groups of antagonists. The opposing forces occupying two elevated positions above the sierra. They spend their time surviving the heat, deprivation and boredom while they await news of the next offensive. Von Bora himself , has just taken command of the nationalist post after the previous lieutenant was shot. He is a German officer, taking orders from the Nationalist army but carrying out his own intelligence gathering for his German superiors. His counterpart on the Internationalist post is Phillip (Felipe) Walton, who is an American volunteer. Felipe has survived world war one but was unable to settle back into civilian life and left his life and marriage to fight in the Spanish civil war, bringing his secrets and fears along.

Two things emerge to unite Walton’s and Von Bora’s interest and energies. The body of  Frederico Garcia Lorca, a famous poet  discovered in the valley between the two camps. This is one point when Pastor strays from fact. No one is sure what happened to Lorca. The history books tell us he was shot by Franco’s troops at the beginning of the Civil War but no one knows where his body is buried. Pastor has created her own fictional account of his death within these pages, cleverly referring to false rumours of his earlier demise.

When Von Bora comes across the body and is immediately interested in how the unknown man died. He reports on the body to his Colonel, who recognises the identity of the victim from Von Bora’s description and tries to keep it a secret, but when they go to fetch the body it is gone, removed by the Internationalists.  Both sides immediately blame the other and a long game of cat and mouse ensues with the body being moved and reinterred and each man making his own investigation. For some it is a matter of personal sorrow, for others propaganda and for Von Bora a puzzle to be solved.

Ben Pastor

Ben Pastor (Clinque Colonne Magazine)

The second character is a Bruja or witch who lives alone at the top of a neighbouring craggy peak. Both Walton and Von Bora visit her. She enchants them with her free spirit and mystical approach and with her lovemaking skills. The character seems surreal and you are left wondering if she is a figment of their imaginations. There is a great deal of philosophical discussion in the book. I like things a bit more literal and less deep I’m afraid, but I wondered if she was meant to be a metaphor?

Ben Pastor (www.benpastor.com) is the pseudonym of Italian born American author Maria Verbena Volpi. After studying Archaeology in Rome, she moved to the United States to teach in the the Mid-West and Vermont. Her previous five Martin Bora Novels include: Lumen (1999); Liar Moon (2001); A Dark Song Of Blood (2002); Master of One Hundred Bones (2011). She’s also written a detective series centered around a Roman soldier  in the fourth century  and two books featuring a pair of detectives in Prague on the eve of world war one. She has written fourteen books to date, but this is the first time The Horseman’s Song has been published the UK. It was originally published in 2003.

The cover blurb talks about a thrilling chase to catch the killer. I didn’t find that in the story. What I did feel was a slow build of tension and heat. Like a kettle building to the boil.  There was a lot of time when nothing really happened, but I still felt the tension increasing. I was looking forward to a great reveal and grand finale but despite the clever denouement and not seeing the answer in advance, I did feel a little disappointed after all my hard work reading this rather chunky tome. However, overall the reading experience was satisfying because of the excellent writing.

So if you love Historical fiction, then get down to your local bookshop or download a copy and get into the Martin Von Bora series. Not forgetting any of Pastors other historical mysteries.

 

Reviewed By Georgina Murphy

 

This book was reviewed as part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you read this book, come back and leave a message telling us what you thought.

 

The Horsemans Song Blog Tour Poster