The Shamshine Blind

S. & S. Audio. Feb. 2023. 11:02 hrs. ISBN 9781797150888. $23.99. SF
Argentine American playwright Pardo’s breathtaking debut novel transports listeners to an alternate 2009 where chemical weapons called psychopigments have changed the balance of world power. Argentina employed these chemicals—which can induce any emotion, from happiness (Sunshine Yellow) to ennui (Slate Gray)—to win the Falklands War and dominate the world. In a broken United States, Kay Curtida, a small-town detective investigating shady pigment dealers, uncovers a dangerous conspiracy with multinational corporations, big biopharma, and government entities ruthlessly vying for power. Cuban American narrator Aida Reluzco gives voice to Curtida, channeling her low-key demeanor and gritty resolve, whether facing casual workplace sexism and ageism or confronting devastating chemical warfare. Her depiction of Curtida’s personal growth—grieving a lost colleague and, by extension, her father; allowing herself to appreciate her own talents, acumen, and vulnerability—is piercing. Reluzco’s characterizations are spot-on, but it is her pitch-perfect portrayal of this bleak world, full of conflicting emotions, unresolved grief, double dealings, and greed, that makes this audio sing.
VERDICT Pardo’s riveting alternate-history noir is as multilayered and rich as the pigments she describes. This highly original, heady blend of mystery, noir, and science fiction is not to be missed.
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