Russell James has been named “the Godfather of Noir” by Ian Rankin. Russell writes crime novels - about criminals and victims, not the cozy procedural or whodunnit. He is the editor of Great British Fictional Detectives.
double review special
If you read only one crime book in translation this year, make it this one, a book that grabs you from the start and whips along at pace – and in which the twists, unlike those in so many crime books, are credible. This is what people would do, you think, caught in a hell of their own making. Set in Argentina (Buenos Aires) the hell is domestic, the eternal triangle – or is there another side? Inés discovers a love letter to her husband, follows him to the woods where he’ll meet his lover – and sees him push and accidentally kill her. What to do – should Inés reveal herself, and what will her husband do? He dumps the body in a lake. Naturally, he says nothing to his wife, and she doesn’t tell him what she knows. But as the police close in she decides to help him. After a few steps she finds she’s on a dangerous wrong path.
Piñeiro is a best-selling Argentinian author, and unlike many South American books this one doesn’t loiter. It screams out to become a film – The Postman Only Brings Double Indemnity perhaps.
Ines Pereyra believes that her husband, Ernesto, is bound to betray her sooner or later, just as her father betrayed her mother. But she also believes that a mistress who leaves anything as vulgar as a heart scrawled in lipstick in Ernesto’s briefcase isn’t the sort of woman to present a real challenge to their marriage. Just to make sure, however, when he gets a phone call late one night, she listens in on another extension. The conversation she hears makes her decide to tail him. She is in time to see the woman collapse after what seems a minor accident – and to see Ernesto dispose of the body in a convenient lake. For a while the death brings them closer together, but soon Ines realises that there is another, more threatening problem – which she resolves to deal with at whatever cost.
Set in Buenos Aires, All Yours is one of those wonderful short novels that demonstrate that less is more, hinting at a deeper corruption than that destroying the protagonists, and even managing to incorporate a sub-plot that throws them into shocking relief. The style is light in touch, with not a wasted word – and the translation is so good you’re never aware that it is a translation.
Don’t be put off by the melodramatic cover: the quiet domestic tragedies are made all the more insistent by their very trivia. In all, All Yours is a terrific book, one of the best I’ve read this year. Go and read it now.