This crime novel (410 pages) was published in February of 2016 by Bitter Lemon Press. The book takes you to modern Buenos Aires. Melissa read Betty Boo and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
Welcome to modern Buenos Aires and the posh gated community of La Maravillosa (aka, ‘The Wonderful). It’s a place for the rich to live outside the dirty fray of city life — until violence invades this privileged enclave.
The story opens on a Monday morning outside the security gates of La Maravillosa. A line of domestic workers — housekeepers, gardeners, plumbers, carpenters, electricians — snakes along the road, waiting to show their credentials and begin their work day. IDs are checked, bags are searched, an inventory of valuables is made to head-off accusations of theft at the end of the day. Nothing escapes the notice of the security guards.
So it’s doubly shocking when a housemaid reports to work and finds her employer sitting in his favorite chair, not with his morning coffee, but with a slit throat.
The newly deceased was a wealthy, powerful industrialist, so his murder is big news. Not only because of his stature, but because his wife died mysteriously a few years before. Plenty of people believe he murdered her — although it couldn’t be proven. Perhaps this is retribution?
After this scene-setting start, the book delves into the who and why of the murder, but rather than following a detective through the evidence, we walk alongside three reporters associated with the El Tribuno newspaper.
The heart of the story is Jaime Brena, a crime reporter recently demoted to writing a society column. He has decades of experience busting crime stories wide open, now he writes about inane research studies while considering retirement.
His replacement on the crime desk is dubbed Crime Boy — a total newbie who has no idea how work the street to get a story. All of his research is done online, much to Jaime’s chagrin.
And our heroine is Nurit Iscar, nicknamed Betty Boo for her resemblance to the cartoon character. Yes, she’s got black curly hair and curves, but more than that, she’s sexy and sassy and modern. A novelist-turned-ghost-writer, Betty Boo is also the former lover of El Tribuno’s editor.
Soon, Betty Boo has temporarily moved into La Maravillosa to live among the moneyed set and write color pieces for the newspaper — while Crime Boy handles the straight reporting. When Jaime, Crime Boy, and Betty Boo team up to investigate, what they find is much darker and more complicated than they ever suspected.
It’s a pleasure to spend time among these characters — to see them connect the dots of the case and to get an inside peek at life in the El Tribuno newsroom. Their relationships evolve in very satisfying ways throughout the story: There’s a little romance, there’s rivalry, there’s understanding. And all of that is in service to a solid mystery. That Monday morning murder at La Maravillosa was just the beginning, and our amateur sleuths uncover a truly chilling event from the past.
Mondays are the days it takes the longest to get into the Maravillosa Country Club… Gladys Varela knows this all too well, and that’s why she’s swearing to herself as she stands facing the barrier, from which a sign reading ‘Personnel and Suppliers’ hangs, behind another fifteen or twenty people who are waiting, like her, to go in. She curses herself for not having charged up the electronic card that would grant her automatic entry. The problem is that the card expires every two months, and the times at which you can make an appointment to reactive it clash with the hours she works for Señor Chazarreta. And Señor Chazarreta isn’t a very nice man… he’s the reason she hasn’t yet dared to ask if she can leave early or have a break to go to the gatehouse and renew her entry card. Because of that way he looks at her. Or doesn’t look at her, because in actual fact, Señor Chazarreta rarely looks right at her, rarely looks her in the eye. He just generally looks, looks around, looks into the garden or looks at the bare wall. Always with a long, unsmiling face, as though he were cross about something. — Claudia Piñeiro
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