cover image Who Killed Palomino Molero

Who Killed Palomino Molero

Mario Vargas Llosa. Farrar Straus Giroux, $14.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-374-28978-2

In the 1950s, a hanging, castrated, garroted corpse is discovered in a field outside a small town in Peru, revealing a murder that is never satisfactorily solved and a political intrigue that's never untangled. Written by the distinguished Peruvian novelist (Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, The War of the End of the World, the tersely recounted story follows the progress of two detectives whose efforts to track down Palomino Molero's killer are blocked by an Air Force colonel and his daughter. Molero, a poor cholo serving in the Air Force, is brought to life by the townspeople as they supply clues to the killing. He was gentle and handsome, they say, a wonderful singer and guitarist, in love with a woman far above him in wealth and station. The detectives confront the colonel's daughter, who admits the affair and accuses her father not only of murder but incest. He, in turn, maintains that his daughter is an incurable neurotic, subject to erotic fantasies. At the end both detectives are transferred to another town. Guilt goes unpunished, the trappings of privilege remain in place; the pervasive taint of corruption becomes unmistakable. Written with colloquial ease and gritty dialogue, this taut narrative propels the reader to its disturbing denouement, leaving provocative questions in its wake. (June)