cover image Outlaws


Javier Cercas, trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean. Bloomsbury, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-62040-325-9

Cercas (The Anatomy of a Moment) relates an inventive tale of misguided loyalty and love, presented as protagonist Ignacio Cañas’s testimony to an author planning a book about his experiences. In 1978, 16-year-old Ignacio, who is brutally bullied at school, is drawn into a teenage criminal gang led by a boy named El Zarco and his girlfriend, Tere. The normally timid Ignacio gets an adrenaline rush from participating in the gang’s acts of purse-snatching, burglary, and auto theft. When El Zarco attempts a bank robbery, however, the gang finds the police waiting for them, and the resulting fiasco scares Ignacio straight. Twenty-five years later, El Zarco has become Spain’s most notorious convict, while Ignacio is a well-known defense attorney. He remains tied to El Zarco and Tere, however, by the fear that his hitherto undisclosed involvement in the gang will be revealed, and by his unhealthy obsession with the criminal pair. The strongest characters in this gritty story are a police officer and prison superintendent who understand the frailties of human nature all too well. (Aug.)