The Depths of the Forest, by Eugenio Fuentes

Gloria, an artist, is walking through a forest to see some cave paintings which she wants to use as inspiration for her own work, when she is savagely murdered. Her boyfriend hires a private detective, Ricardo Cupido, to investigate, since the police don't look like they're going to crack the case. As Cupido finds out more about Gloria and the people who had come in contact with her, he becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth. When another woman and then a man is murdered, the boyfriend decides to abandon the investigation, concluding that Gloria's murder is just part of a serial killer's random spree, but Cupido cannot let things go.

This was recommended by the Guardian, which praised both the novel and this translation. I am not sure the translation is that fantastic: there were a couple of places at the start of the book where the language seemed a bit awkward to me and throughout the book there was occasional use of exclamation marks outside of reported speech, when describing the thoughts of characters. E.g. "A private detective is indifferent to the moral aspects...all he does is listen to, agree with, and take orders from his client - just like a prostitute. Always provided, of course, that they pay well!" This jarred a bit; I think an English writer would not use exclamation marks in this way.

Having said that, once the book got going I didn't really notice these things much as it was a pretty good read. There seemed to be a lot of people who could have been involved in the murder(s); plenty of secrets were uncovered by Cupido as he pursued his investigations. And the way that a picture of Gloria gradually emerged and became more and more solid was impressive: even though she dies right at the start of the story, and even though all we find out about her after that is through conversations with those who knew her, and small extracts from her diary, she ends up being the strongest character in the book.

The narrative's point of view concentrated on Cupido but also moved between some of the other characters. This turned out to be a little bit of a cheat, since the reader is led to believe that in some cases, because access to the thoughts of a character has been suggested, that person can be eliminated as a possible suspect. At the book's climax, the identity of the killer is revealed and it is then clear that we didn't after all know those characters so well. In fact I guessed the identity of the killer almost as soon as he appeared, but came to doubt my intuition when the story seemed later to suggest him as being ignorant of the facts of the crime. But, the book was intruiging enough that this didn't spoil the enjoyment very much.

Overall, worth reading, although maybe not the classic which the Guardian review suggested. Would also read more by this author.

Completed : 22-Oct-2007

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