12 September 2013

Review: THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES, Eduardo Sacheri

  • originally published 2005
  • Published by Harper Collins Australia 2011
  • ISBN 978-0-7322-9386-4
  • translated from Spanish by John Cullen
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

Benjamín Chaparro is a retired detective still obsessed by the brutal, decades-old rape and murder of a young married woman in her own bedroom. While attempting to write a book about the case, he revisits the details of the investigation. As he reaches into the past, Chaparro also recalls the beginning of his long, unrequited love for Irene Hornos, then just an intern, now a respected judge.

Set in the Buenos Aires of the 1970s, Sacheri’s tale reveals the underpinnings of Argentina’s Dirty War and takes on the question of justice—what it really means and in whose hands it belongs.

My Take

I have read this novel for the 2013 Global Reading Challenge, and, to be quite honest, didn't find the first 100 pages very easy going at all. The structure of the book took some getting used to.

Benjamin Chaparro, a recently retired court investigator, decides to fill his days with writing a book about the case which has most affected his working life. The case is the murder/rape in Buenos Aires of Liliana Colotto, the young wife of Ricardo Agustin Morales in May 1968.

It is well over three decades later when Chaparro retires and begins to write his book on a borrowed typewriter. As the story unfolds we learn not only how this case has stayed with him for all those years, how he has intermittently been in touch with the widowed husband, but also how in fact it impacted his whole working life.

The structure of THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES allows us to read the book that Chaparro is writing as he writes it, while he occasionally jumps out of writing mode, into present time, becoming part of the narrative that surrounds the writing of the book.  As we enter the final 100 pages of the book, the author makes us surmise what the conclusion might be. The ending is stranger than I could ever have guessed.

So this is a book in which I changed my mind from tolerance to admiration for the cleverness of the plot. The plot takes place in part during Argentina's Dirty War (1976-1983), during which as many as 30,000 people disappeared. While this doesn't seem to directly impact on the plot, it does help to explain why a case might take so long to be resolved, if ever, and how stretched the forces of justice could be. My impression in reading the first 100 or so pages was of a literary style which softened as the plot progressed.

My rating: 4.6

In 2010 the film based on the book won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
David Stratton's review - view an extract.

1 comment:

Kathy D. said...

I have not read this book but saw the amazing movie, which I recommend. It's extremely well-done.


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