Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Martín Solares: The Black Minutes

Larry Rohter reviews Martín Solares' The Black Minutes.
Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler had no way of knowing it at the time, but their inventions of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe unleashed a small global literary revolution. We tend to think of their pulp fictions, and their focus on California’s sordid underbelly, as quintessentially American, but the reach, appeal and relevance of their work are really universal, a case in point being Martín Solares’s newly translated novel, "The Black Minutes."
In "The Black Minutes," which first appeared in Spanish in 2006, Mr. Solares offers two memorable Mexican variants on the hard-boiled operative struggling to maintain his integrity in a moral cesspool. Vicente Rangel and Ramón Cabrera, known as the Big Flowerpot, are not private detectives, but they might as well be, given their antagonistic relationship with their fellow police officers and their inability to trust anyone else whose paths they cross.
"The Black Minutes" is set in Paracuán, a sweltering port city on the Gulf of Mexico that bears more than a passing resemblance to Tampico, Mr. Solares’s hometown. A young investigative journalist just returned from a sojourn in Texas has been murdered, and the resulting police inquiry leads Cabrera back more than a quarter-century, to the 1970s, when a serial killer was preying on prepubescent schoolgirls, and Rangel got stuck with the case.
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