Life is a constant struggle for prosecutor Felix Chacaltana Saldivar in Ayacucho. Having recently divorced, he has left Lima for a smaller town and becomes embroiled in political corruption and deceit at the highest levels. Struggling to find his place he is thwarted at every turn, made to accept the status quo and required to go along to keep in the graces of the local militia and police. The story reminded me of David Pearce’s Red Riding Quartet, not only in the aspects of his superiors looking the other way, but at the sheer brutality of the deeds he was asked to pretend were not happening for his own good.
As his own investigation into the murders escalates, he exposes additional cover-ups performed by the church and the local priest. When a suspected terrorist is allowed to escape from jail—only to be brutally butchered—and the priest Chacaltana confesses to is tortured and slaughtered in his own church during Holy Week, the prosecutor becomes the pursued, or is he? In his own mind, swamped in confusion, he talks to his recently departed mother and the young girl, Edith, he is trying to court.
As the story builds to a crescendo, we are treated to the written notes of a third party as a clue to who is behind the rumors, the troubles and the murders themselves. Will Chacaltana discover the truth before he becomes the next victim? In an inspiring tale of one man trying to make a difference in this private hell on earth, Roncagliolo presents us with a flawed protagonist that we can relate to and gives us hope for mankind in this political thriller. But do not be fooled by the shy, unassuming attitude of the prosecutor; he is out to get his man no matter the cost, even if it is his own demise.
A brilliant debut novel from one of Latin America’s newest and compelling authors.