Pablo “Gotan” Martelli, an ex-cop and current toilet salesman in Argentina, breaks his rule of answer the phone after midnight, and trouble follows.
Half an hour after Edmundo Carcano’s call I was driving across the city as fast as a patrol car taking the special giant-size mozzarella from the pizzeria to the police station. (p.4)
There are attempts at humour and attempts at suspense.
Thanks to the contacts in the police whose palms Wolf had greased and to legions of informers who lived in among the dust of the legal cases sleeping the eternal sleep of Argentine justice, he had discovered that in less than twenty-four hours…. (p.127)
There are long sentences and the book lacks punch. The many classic story elements are preassembly why it was translated into English, but the execution is slack.
A former high status policeman who now sells bathroom goods in inadvertently dragged into the mire of a national scheme. He doesn’t seem motivated with passion to act, but he does plod along.
There are threats to Gotan’s life, except each is withdrawn and Gotan himself does not seem to greatly care, so the real motivation for the book becomes the mystery of the killer, but this appears of low importance, it could be saving a women from a kidnapper, but this appears of low desperation.
Traditionally swift time helps the speed of the book, but while actions occur quickly the pressure is lacking. Days are spent in pointless searching, with interruptions, until sudden discoveries are made.
The depth here is lacking. Gotan does not act with much inertia. He is bitter, but he is also unengaged – unlike a Marlow from the Big Sleep, whose anger at the world keeps him engage. Perhaps that is Argentina, but it is not motivating to read.
This is a fiction, and the world it occupies is not painted clearly or with enough confidence for it to be believable. An intention of the book to tell a story about Argentine politics and history therefore does not fully succeed.