cover image Necropolis


Santiago Gamboa, trans. from the Spanish by Howard Curtis. Europa (Penguin, dist.), $16 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-1-60945-073-1

The International Conference on Biography and Memory is being held in Jerusalem, and our nameless hero, "a working writer," is honored to be invited after a hiatus from writing due to illness. When he arrives, he is shocked to find the city torn apart by war: "Facing us was a labyrinth of asymmetrical streets, pockmarked with holes and filled with steaming garbage. The houses, cubes of stone the color of sand, bore the marks of grenades and mortars on their walls." His experience only grows more intense as he sets out to find the truth behind the sudden death of charismatic conference speaker Jos%C3%A9 Maturana. The structure of Gamboa's modern-day literary thriller ushers readers directly into the action%E2%80%94the protagonist's point of view is intertwined with Maturana's narrative in the first section, while the second portion comprises three other conference speakers' lectures, each of which is a richly told story in its own right. Finally, the last part of the novel returns to the writer's quest to solve Maturana's mysterious death. The Colombian-born Gamboa's work calls to mind Roberto Bola%C3%B1o in its masterful suspense, complex literary references, and frank depiction of violence, sex, and drugs, but this novel stands on its own as a masterwork of storytelling. (July)