The Book of Murder

Guillermo Martinez is a young Argentinian writer with a PhD in Mathematics. He first came to some notice in the UK a couple of years ago with the publication of The Oxford Murders. That book, which enjoyed a respectable success, has recently been made into a film with John Hurt, which has helped enormously to raise Martinez’s profile and I expect The Book of Murder to receive similar critical acclaim.

In many ways it is a novel that is very similar to The Oxford Murders. The style is unmistakably that of Martinez. IT could be argued that thisis not strictly a crime novel, although the narrative does revolve arounda series of crimes. In fact, the central conundrum presented to us in The Book of Murder is whether the events portrayed are, in fact, crimes at all or merely a coincidental series of freak accidents. Certainly this is not detective fiction, although the author’s mathematical background is eveident in its focus upon logic and reasoning.

The main difference between the two novels, though, is in the location. The Book of Murder is not set against the gentile academic life of Oxford (arguably making The Oxford Murders, at least in part, a homage to the English detective story and Country House Murder), but in the heat and urban claustrophobia of Buenos Aires. A hint of the supernatural (or at least supernatural possibility) is introduced and this clash of the supernatural and the ultra-rational seems to give more than a nod to the Magical Realism of much South American fiction. This means that The Book of Murder is far more of apsychological thriller than its predecessor.

Martinez’s style is strong, confident, literary and readable and he has an excellent translator in Sonia Soto. He is definitely an author to watch (or read).

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