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In this story within a story, protagonist Benjamin Chaparro writes about wanting to write (the tale of the brutal murder of a young married woman, Liliana Morales, which he investigates as a deputy clerk in the Argentine justice system) while also telling us about his present unrequited love for Judge Irene Hornos, whom he first met when she was just an intern. Author Eduardo Sacheri keeps this writing device fresh through the entire telling of the story.
Chaparro is haunted by the murder and its subsequent events, and impelled to mention every detail that he can remember. He is also, after two years of marriage, still taken with the thought of being with Judge Irene(who is still married herself). He wishes that he could have saved Liliana, and he fears to take the steps necessary to make Judge Irene his own.
Buenos Aires in the 1970s is the site of Chaparro’s retirment from court, after which he wants to write about the case. About his second wife, Silvia, Chaparro writes: “When she still loved me, she’d talk frequently about my future as a writer, most probably a famous one. Later, when her love had wilted and died in the tedium of our marriage, she would cry I was just pretending to be a writer, speaking from her tower of irony she’d chosen to occupy, a fortification from which she liked to fire missiles at me.” But “My first wife Marcella and I couldn’t even talk about my
writing ambitions, or – come to think of it – about anything else.” When finally divorced and alone Chaparro borrows an old “olive-green Remington barely smaller than a tank and made of equally thick steel” from Irene’s court and begins to write his memories of Liliana’s case. When starting, “I gaze out at the street. As usual, there’s not a soul in sight. Thirty years ago, these empty streets were full of people, young and old, but now the young people have gone away, and the old ones have gone inside….and we’re going to write a novel.”
On May 30, 1968, Ricardo Augstin Morales is leaving his wife Liliana who’s wearing a sea-green nightgown, “waving his hand in good-bye, not knowing that it was forever.” Later Inspector Baez finds an “unidentified young female” victim a little under 20 yeas old in the apartment. Deputy Clerk Chaparro is called to the scene. Liliana (nee Colotto), was a school teacher and her husband Ricardo was a teller at the Provincial Bank of Buenos Aires. But Liliana was strangled and her husband was bewildered and Chaparro “believed I understood that the reason we are sometimes moved by another’s grief has to do with the atavistic fear that this grief may be transferred t us, too.” A photo of Liliana as a little girl links her to Isodoro Gomez, who had loved her for years.
Chaparro shuffles papers and talks, along with his clerk friend Sandoval, about cars to Judge Fortuna to get him to sign papers and extend the case without knowing what he was doing, believing “stupid people are better presevered physically than others because they aren’t as worn down by existential angst.” Thus Chaparro set out to prove Gomez’s guilt (or innocence), while Gomez just states “I knew the girl, yes. We were friends, and I was very sorry to
hear she was dead.”
Rich in characterization and plot complication, The Secret In Their Eyes follows a twisted path (made even more layrinthine by the minds of many of its characters) to a startling conclusion filled with jealousy and revenge. Along the way, he philosophizes (e.g. writing “Women know how to hide their feelings, how to defuse emotions that the often explode inside men and show on their faces”), which, along with great descriptions, adds to the richness of the work. Chaparro is also, because he once reported an officer, Romano, for beating up prisoners severely, raided by govenmental thugs (in Argentina’s Dirty War) who usually “vacuum” people (carry them away to hide-outs), but he evades them and is exiled to a remote area for many years.
An entire adult life, Chaparro’s, is portrayed in The Secret In Their Eyes, along with the lives of those he knew and those for whom he sought justice. An intricate and satisfying plot line (you can never quite guess what’s coming next) makes this book an entirely fulfilling (and often poetic) read. Through his writing Eduardo Sacheri elevates the typical crime novel to the higher realms of literary value.
The Secret In Their Eyes, a novel by Eduardo Sacheri, published on October 18, 2011, by Other Press, 385 pages.
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Reviewed by Christina Zawadiwsky
Christina Zawadiwsky is Ukrainian-American, born in New York City, has a degree in Fine Arts, and is a poet, artist, journalist and TV producer. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Award, two Wisconsin Arts Boards Awards, a Co-Ordinating Council of Literary Magazines Writers Award, and an Art Futures Award, among other honors. She was the originator and producer of Where The Waters Meet, a local TV series created to facilitate the voices of artists of all genres in the media, for which she won two national and twenty local awards, including a Commitment to Community Television Award. She is also a contributing editor to the annual Pushcart Prize Anthology, the recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, and has published four books of poetry. She currently reviews movies for , music for , and books for .