MYSTERY

Repentance

Agora: Polis. Oct. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781951709464. $26.99. M
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DEBUTIn 1981, Argentina is in the midst of the Dirty War, in which 30,000 so-called subversives were “disappeared” by the military dictatorship; among the disappeared is Inspector Joaquín Alzada’s brother Jorge. Twenty years later, Argentina is rocked by civil unrest caused by a plummeting economy. Alzada, known for flouting authority, is relegated to desk duty while the rest of the police are on riot patrol. When a wealthy Buenos Aires woman is reported missing, Alzada defies commands and investigates the case; clues point to her abduction by a prominent politician, but the police commissioner won’t investigate without a body. An unidentified corpse, bearing a striking resemblance to the missing woman, turns up in a dumpster. Can Alzada substitute one body for the other and build a case? Chapters dealing with Jorge’s disappearance reflect the era’s chilling brutality, in this police procedural with social commentary.
VERDICT A tense debut thriller with excellent characters and a timely, satisfying plot; knowledge of recent Argentinian history would help readers contextualize the violence Díaz depicts. For fans of Philip Kerr’s “Bernie Gunther” novels.
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