cover image Needle in a Haystack

Needle in a Haystack

Ernesto Mallo, trans. from the Spanish by Jethro Soutar, Bitter Lemon, $14.95 paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-904738-56-5

As a member of a guerrilla movement that opposed Argentina's dictatorship, Mallo brings authenticity to his gripping debut, set in 1979 during military rule of that country. Early one morning, Superintendent Lascano of the Buenos Aires police looks into a report that two bodies have been dumped on a river bank. Instead, he finds three corpses—a young man and young woman, whose obliterated features are consistent with an army hit, and a man around 60, his face intact. The older victim turns out to be Holocaust survivor and money lender Elías Biterman, whose profession and faith provide no shortage of enemies. While Mallo reveals the killer's identity well before the end, the book's power derives from his depiction of an honest cop trying to do his job when even a judge observes, "With so many corpses everywhere, why worry about one more?" Martin Cruz Smith and Philip Kerr fans will be rewarded. (Sept.)