So this is the second of two books (the first being Around the World in 80 Days) that my friend S sent to me for my birthday and to inspire wanderlust. The Vesak Day long weekend has just past here in Singapore and the next public holiday is all the way in August – with my trips planned for end September (Prague) and November (Maldives), I’m experiencing some serious restlessness and just itching to go somewhere.
Well we’ll make do with the books – let’s talk about this one:
Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa and translated by Edith Grossman – I will admit to knowing nothing about the book nor the writer before S introduced it to me, which is quite rare for me these days because I tend to stick to writers who I’m familiar with. Whether it was fiction or perhaps some sort of real-life biography, who knew?
The book is set in the Andes mountains obviously, which is the longest continental mountain range in the world and stretches through 7 countries in South America; the action mostly takes place in a small remote mountain town in Peru. 3 men have mysteriously disappeared and the protagonist Army Corporal Lituma is sent to investigate whether it was foul play, guerilla activity or some mysterious mountain magic at work.
It can get a bit confusing in the start as the script is peppered with a fair bit of Spanish conversation and terms… and the plot is quite twisty, flashbacks and current day are intermingled and one can get lost if you skim too quickly! I was a bit boggled in the beginning, but trust me when I say persevere, because it all starts to make sense and come together after that. I was pulled in initially by the whodunnit aspects (I’m a big fan of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie detectives) but enjoyed learning a bit more about the culture, history and the overall story as well.
South America is one of the continents which I have yet to set foot upon, and thus one of the most foreign to me, so I found quite a lot of the story pretty exotic. Peru would definitely be on my list, with Cuzco and Machu Picchu and a whole load of other UNESCO sites, Though I have to say I’m going to be a bit more cautious if I’m in a remote mountain village, because from local guerillas to mystical folklore, seems like a lot of ways to disappear!
I don’t want to go into too much detail and spoil the experience for any potential readers, but i found it quite a good read overall – it’s not too thick and I powered through it in 2 nights… but probably for someone who wants a holiday read that’s not too fluffy or perky, there’s a fair bit of violence happening on and off the page in this book. Me… I don’t want to tax my brain when I’m on vacation!