The Case of Lisandra P. by Helene Gremillion and Alison Anderson (translator)
|The Case of Lisandra P. by Helene Gremillion|
|Reviewer: Susan M Miller|
|Summary: Want an easy read thriller that keeps you absorbed from start to finish? – this isn't it. Want a meandering murder mystery story set in Argentina that makes you wonder where it is going next and teaches you some fascinating history along the way? Pick this up and jump right in.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: January 2016|
|Publisher: Penguin Book|
|External links: Author's website|
I began reading this book thinking it was going to be a really traditional 'whodunnit' in the style of an Agatha Christie or Conan Doyle novel. In one way it is; there's a whole host of characters that might have been implicated in Lisandra's death and via Eva Maria (our 'investigator') it is our job to narrow the field of suspects. Vittorio, Lisandra's husband (a psychoanalyst), has been arrested for her murder and Eva Maria (one of his patients) decides to set out to prove his innocence by finding the real killer. However, it is also the account of a country and its people and that was the tale that I actually enjoyed more.
I was in two minds about the book. On one hand it is a page turner because I did want to finish it and on the other it really isn't an easy read. I did get drawn into the story enough to want to know what had happened; had Lisandra jumped, was she pushed, who was involved in her death? But unfortunately I didn't really like many of the characters, which makes caring about them and thus their stories quite difficult. There was nobody I particularly connected with expect maybe Eva's son Esteban (who is trying his best for his mother as she drinks more and more) and Pepe (Lisandra's dancing teacher) an elderly gentleman who tells us some of Lisandra's story.
The story begins with Vittorio's first meeting with Lisandra and his subsequent love affair and marriage to her. Lisandra's death and Vittorio's arrest follow and within the first twenty pages, Vittorio is begging Eva Maria to look for Lisandra's murderer. So that we, the readers, can learn about some of Vittorio's patients (and possible suspects) Eva Maria listens to the recordings he has made of his sessions. To say I found it an odd premise that a patient would be listening to other patient's consultations is an understatement. It makes it seem as though Vittorio has no family or friends who would support or defend him and it didn't endear his character to me at all.
Gremillion definitely loves words; this is first and foremost a literary book not an action-packed thriller. In fact sometimes there are passages of text that feel extraneous. The three page list of sexual attractions, written out to explain the word 'candaulism', is one such example which felt superfluous to the story.
What was interesting, and linked with with Gremillion's past career as a journalist, was the story interwoven through the book of Argentina's Dirty War. Our backdrop to the case of Lisandra P is in Buenos Aries in 1987, five years after the end of this period. It's the time of 'the disappeared' when alleged dissidents (or sympathisers) were abducted, illegally detained and kept in secret detention centres where they were questioned, tortured, and often killed. The facts are skilfully laced into the tale and made me want to learn more and I love it when a novel educates you on a subject you know nothing about.
After such an involved and convoluted story, the conclusion feels hasty; somewhat superficial and perhaps just a little bit careless. Despite my criticisms, I did want to finish the book (always 'a tell' for me if it has been worth reading) and would read a new book by Helene Gremillion.
Further reading Suggestions:
You can read more book reviews or buy The Case of Lisandra P. by Helene Gremillion and Alison Anderson (translator) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Case of Lisandra P. by Helene Gremillion and Alison Anderson (translator) at Amazon.com.
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