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Death in the Andes – Is the book as ominous as it sounds?

When I don’t get to travel, I have to find ways to inspire myself here at home to scratch that wanderlusting itch. My friend S sent me two books for my birthday – the classic Jules Vernes title Around the World in 80 Days and this book called Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa and translated by Edith Grossman. Considering that South America is pretty high up on places that I want to travel to, I was curious to see what it was about.

Here’s a little review of sorts on what I thought about the book. You can pick up Death in the Andes on Amazon [Amazon affiliate link] for yourself.

I knew nothing about the book nor the writer before S introduced it to me, because I tend to stick to writers that I like and am familiar with. I wasn’t even sure if this was fiction or some sort of real-life biography.

Obviously, the book is set in the Andes mountains, the longest continental mountain range in the world that 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 that might confuse you if you don’t speak the language. The plot is quite twisty, flashbacks and current day are intermingled and one can get lost if you skim too quickly (which I tend to do). I definitely found it hard at 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 detective type stories) 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 Cusco 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, it seems like there are 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… this is best for someone who wants a more serious read, note there’s a fair bit of violence happening on and off the page in this book. Not quite your fluffy vacation read!