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THE EMPANADA AFFAIR by Jerold Last
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THE EMPANADA AFFAIR

by Jerold Last

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THE EMPANADA AFFAIR reads to me as if the authors had collected a lot of tourist brochures, visited many tourist sites, and eaten at many restaurants during their stay in Salta (see notes about the authors below) and decided to write a tourist handbook for US visitors. It is filled with the sort of detail you would expect to find in a Frommer's Guide for tourists. When that didn't quite work out they decided to add a mystery element. Unfortunately liking to read crime fiction doesn't always endow the ability to write a good crime fiction novel.

My estimate is that the murder mystery thread in THE EMPANADA AFFAIR occupies about 10% of the novel. The rest is filled with extraneous and largely irrelevant travelogue details. If you had a mind to, you could learn quite a lot about the culture and historical background of Argentina, but unfortunately that wasn't my purpose in reading it. I was looking for a good murder mystery plot set against an authentic background. While I got the background, I wasn't prepared for it to take centre stage. In fact the murder mystery theme never does get properly resolved. The suspense element dies out well before the end.

To add to my annoyance PI Roger Bowman, ex LA cop, was a most unprofessional person and the numerous steamy (and graphically described) sex scenes between him and his client Suzanne Foster made me feel like a voyeur.

There are a number of technical difficulties with this novel that the authors must solve before venturing into publishing again. For example most chapters finish with Roger and Suzanne snuggled up in bed at the end of the day. Each chapter seems to deal with a journey or a day.

There is a second problem caused by stilted and poorly constructed dialogue.
I can always tolerate something that looks like the following once, but to ask me to read conversations constructed like this several times is unimaginative.

“What did you like the best?” I asked Suzanne.

“Did you like the chorizo, the beef sausage?”

“I thought it was kind of bland and needed something spicy to go with it. The combination with chimichurri was pretty good. At home I’m used to the Mexican pork chorizo, which is highly spiced, and I like it a lot more.”

“How about the blood sausage?”

“I didn’t particularly care for it. The flavor is very bland and the texture is off-putting, kind of gritty.”

“What did you think about the chinchulines?”

So, if you are not particularly addicted to crime fiction, want to read something that reads like a non-fiction travelogue with virtually no story, and intend to travel to Salta, Argentina, then this may be the book for you.

Me, I took the blurb a little more at face value, and was extremely disappointed. ( )
  smik | Sep 30, 2011 |
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