Un dulce olor a muerte (A Sweet Scent of Dead) by Guillermo Arriaga

7438560 Guillermo Arriaga. Un dulce olor a muerte. First published in 1994. Belacqva (2007). 166 pages. ISBN: 978-84-9664-03-3.

English publisher Washington Square Press.  English title: A Sweet Scent of Death. Translated by Alan Page. I read this book for Dorte’s 2010 Global Reading Challenge, Extremist Level, this was my third North America book (Mexico).

A Sweet Scent Of Death is the second novel by Guillermo Arriaga, who is probably better known as the screenwriter of movies such as Amores perros, 21 Grams, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and Babel.

The plot is set in a small Mexican village called Loma Grande. The story opens one Sunday morning. The naked body of a young woman, almost a girl, is found stabbed in the back in a field of sorghum. She was admired from afar by Ramón Castaños a sixteen-year-old boy. His grief is so great that soon the rumour spread that she was his girlfriend. Ramon, unable to refute this rumour, is convinced that he must avenge Adela’s death. Word spreads that the killer was Jose Echeverri-Berriozabal, known as ‘The Gypsy’. A nomadic who used to visit frequently Gabriela, a married woman, unable to defend him. And a sweet scent of death spreads in Loma Grande. Globus 2

This book is wonderfully written (in Mexican Spanish) and reminds me immediately of a Greek tragedy. Its 166 pages can be read in one go. I was left breathless when I finished it. Awesome. I must look for the rest of his books.

Guillermo Arriaga has also published Escuadrón guillotina (1991) The Guillotine Squad and El búfalo de la noche (1999) The Night Buffalo. In 2009 Arriaga made his debut as film director with The Burning Plain.

For more information about A Sweet Scent of Death you can browse inside at Simon & Schuster or read an excerpt in Spanish at Barnes & Noble.

Friday Forgotten Books: 120 Rue de la Gare, by Léo Malet

84 Léo Malet. Calle de la Estación, 120. Translated to Spanish by Luisa Feliu. Original title: 120, Rue de la Gare (1942). Libros del Asteroide (2010). 240 pages. ISBN: 978-84-92663-14-9.

Calle de la Estación, 120 is the first novel by Léo Malet featuring private-eye Nestor Burma. Written in 1942, the last year of the German occupation of France during WWII, it was published in 1943.  As some of his books this was adapted to comic by French artist Jacques Tardi.

Nestor Burma, a former Parisian private-eye, is being repatriated from a prisoners’ camp in Germany. The train is taking him to the occupied Paris but it makes a stop at Lyon in the Vichy zone. On the platform he recognises Bob Colomer,a former colleague who is shot dead just after greeting him. Nestor Burma 200px-France_map_Lambert-93_with_regions_and_departments-occupation_svghad only had time to see a woman holding a gun. She looks very much like an actress, Madeleine Moraine. Bob Colomer last words are: 120 Rue de la Gare. Strange enough this address were the same last words that Burma, when he was at the German camp, heard from an amnesic prisoner nicknamed “La Globule”. Thus begins what it is considered by many the first French ‘roman noir’. A fascinating read with an interesting description of everyday life in France during WWII that serves also to introduce an engaging character, Nestor “Dynamite” Burma.

For more information about Leo Malet read here.

See if available at Amazon used.

The map with the occupation zones of France during the Second World War was taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:France_map_Lambert-93_with_regions_and_departments-occupation.svg

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