cover image The Black Minutes

The Black Minutes

Martin Solares, , trans. from the Spanish by Aura Estrada and John Pluecker. . Grove/Black Cat, $14 (436pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-7068-2

Set in the fictional oil port of Paracuán, Mexican author Solares's debut deftly treads a risky tightrope between police procedural and surreal fantasy. Someone kills young journalist Bernardo Blanco while he's investigating a 20-year-old case involving the serial torture-murders of young girls, violations so horrifying that they sicken even hardened cops. Solares unflinchingly follows both detective Ramón Cabrera, who's assigned to Blanco's murder, and detective Vicente Rangel González, who investigated the original crimes, two idealists barely keeping themselves afloat in a sea of corruption, as they uncover layer after layer of depravity. With continually shifting perspectives and nightmarish intrusions—real or imagined?—of actual people like “B. Traven” (the enigmatic author of Treasure of the Sierra Madre ), this haunting novel forces readers to confront that bedeviling paradox of human nature, the eternal mystery of wickedness. (May)