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The Secret in Their Eyes by Eduardo Sacheri (thoughts)

November 24, 2011

Argentina’s one of those countries that I very much want to visit but somehow don’t read much about, so when I saw The Secret in Their Eyes by Eduardo Sacheri on Netgalley, I decided to request it. It’s a thriller set in the 1970s, which means Argentina’s Dirty War forms its backdrop. As an international relations nerd, I was curious to see how the politics interacted with the main storyline, which is a plot that begins with the (in my view, rather tired) device of a beautiful young woman found raped and murdered.

The novel is divided into two storylines, actually, which allows Sacheri to increase the suspense. The first follows Chaparro, a detective who has just retired and finds himself at a loss as to how to spend his days. Then, he decides to write a book about a case that still haunts him: this becomes the second storyline, with the victim I already mentioned. The two parts are written in a completely different style; one of the styles really appealed to me while the other drove me insane. Obviously, Sacheri chose it for a reason, but I’m not sure what. Fortunately, the narratives switch back and forth often enough that I never gave up on it!

Over all, I found myself turning the pages almost against my will…I could probably give you a list of cliches all to be found within the pages, but somehow it still worked. This is one of the books I end up rating as three stars because “some aspects were marvelous but others were awful,” so they kind of balance each other out. ;) I’d definitely recommend this to a certain type of reader. It’s got a bit of a noir feel to it, and I think those who enjoy thrillers or slightly grittier crime novels will have fun here. Also, readers who prioritise plot over characters or writing style will definitely enjoy it: Sacheri knows how to keep things interesting. That being said, while it worked for the mood I was in when I read it, I can’t see myself seeking out more of his books in the future. I like the modern fiction I read to be a bit more inventive or playful or challenging in its plotting or characterisations or themes, and I prefer a more lush prose style. Of course, as a genre reader, I am always excited to see international genre books, so I’m glad I gave this a try! (And I will be seeking out the award-winning movie adaptation: I think the more detailed sense of place a film automatically provides would strengthen the whole story for me.)

8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 24, 2011 8:33 am

    Oh interesting. I got a copy of this at BEA but haven’t gotten around to reading it. I’m holding onto it for an international crime month Jenny and I are doing in January, but I’ll keep my expectations in check.

    • December 15, 2011 11:51 pm

      I’ll be curious to see your thoughts! And excited to hear about your Jan plans!

  2. Ruthiella permalink
    November 24, 2011 6:05 pm

    Hi Eva. First let me say your review directory is the best! When you mentioned enjoying fiction that is “inventive or playful or challenging in its plotting or characterizations or themes”, I thought of Scarlett Thomas. I have only read “Pop Co”, but have both “Our Tragic Universe” and “The End of Mr. Yi” on my TBR. She is white and British, so she doesn’t quite fit in your efforts to read more widely in that respect, but her books are very inventive and challenging. Just a suggestion!

    • December 15, 2011 11:51 pm

      Thanks Ruthiella, for your compliment and recommendation! I definitely still read a lot of white British and American authors, many of whom end up as favourites, so I’ve added her to my wish list. :)

  3. Caroline permalink
    November 25, 2011 4:12 pm

    Hi Eva! I haven’t commented here in a long while (sorry), so I feel a bit bad being negative, but I felt sort of the same way about the film as you did about the book. I’m afraid after about half an hour I switched off the DVD, as it all seemed a bit predictable, and I couldn’t really see why it had won so many awards. But maybe it gets better?? (Or maybe I was in the wrong mood for it? But then, I don’t usually enjoy gritty crime thrillers.) I hope you enjoy it, anyway – I don’t mean to put you off!
    I second Ruthiella’s suggestion of Scarlett Thomas. ‘Our Tragic Universe’ is my favourite of hers.

    • December 15, 2011 11:52 pm

      No worries about feeling negative Caroline! I might end up turning off the movie too. :)

  4. November 28, 2011 9:27 am

    Hmmmmm as a lover of ‘lush prose’ myself I might give this one a miss, I think!

  5. November 28, 2011 10:48 am

    Too bad you didn’t love this one more, I’ve not read much from Argentina either though I think this one isn’t quite for me.

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