Three bodies lie at the bottom of a swimming pool in a gated country estate near Buenos Aires.
It’s Thursday night at the magnificent Scaglia house. Behind the locked gates, shielded from the crime, poverty and filth of the people on the streets, the Scaglias and their friends hide lives of infidelity, alcoholism, and abusive marriage.
Claudia Piñeiro’s novel eerily foreshadowed a criminal case that generated a scandal in the Argentine media. But this is more than a story about crime. The suspense is a by-product of Piñeiro’s hand at crafting a psychological portrait of a professional class that lives beyond its means and leads secret lives of deadly stress and despair.
It takes place during the post 9/11 economic melt-down in Argentina but it’s a universal story that will resonate among credit-crunched readers of today.
Claudia Piñeiro was a journalist, playwright and television scriptwriter and in 1992 won the prestigious Pléyade journalism award. She has more recently turned to fiction and is the author of literary crime novels that are all bestsellers in Latin America and have been translated into four languages.
This novel won the Clarin Prize for fiction and is her first title to be available in English.
Miranda France wrote Bad Times in Buenos Aires which in essay form won the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize in The Spectator magazine. A book by the same title was published in 1998 and met with great critical acclaim. The New York Times described it as ‘a remarkable achievement’ and the Sunday Times as ‘an outstanding book’.
This was a clever book, the opening gives nothing away, and the plot veers away from the shocking discovery to reveal more about the community safe behind their gates, their lies and secrets laid bare to the reader, only returning to the bodies in the pool right at the end, when you’ve almost forgotten about them.
The wealthy elite pride themselves on their beautiful homes, their immaculate green lawns and regular attendance on the golf course and tennis courts, but the veneer of success is thin and starting to crack as the economy tanks, taking with it jobs and security.
Every home holds secrets and the women of this gated community see all, and are telling all. Told mostly by Veronica, estate agent and the one holding her family together, someone who’s seen inside almost every home.
This was such a slow burn of a book, I genuinely forgot about the bodies in the pool until it circled back round to them and the plot that ends in three deaths is revealed. The ending left me wondering if there was a sequel somewhere, I wanted to know what choice was made.
I also tried to find out what scandal the author foresaw, but Google let me down there, if you know, tell me in the comments please.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.