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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



The Book of Murder

by
Guillermo Martínez


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Book of Murder



Title: The Book of Murder
Author: Guillermo Martínez
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 215 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Book of Murder - US
La muerte lenta de Luciana B. - US
The Book of Murder - UK
The Book of Murder - Canada
Der langsame Tod der Luciana B. - Deutschland
  • Spanish title: La muerte lenta de Luciana B.
  • Translated by Sonia Soto

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Our Assessment:

B : an interesting twist, but not entirely gripping

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 19/5/2008 Kersten Knipp
Independent on Sunday A+ 18/5/2008 Brandon Robshaw
The LA Times . 31/8/2008 Sarah Weinman
Sunday Times A 4/5/2008 Joan Smith


  From the Reviews:
  • "Der Roman läuft zügig an und erklimmt rasch einen Spannungsbogen, den er lange Zeit zu halten versteht. Wer darum will, kann den Roman als Krimi lesen und bis zum Ende auf die Auflösung gespannt sein. Doch Martínez wollte mehr, als nur einen spannenden Kriminalroman schreiben." - Kersten Knipp, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "This novel is a meditation on chance, on revenge, on the power of literature, on randomness and causality, and on the awesome strength of human emotions, whether love or hatred. As clever and as erudite as Borges (Martinez casually name-checks Descartes, Thomas Mann, Jean-François Lyotard and Henry James, among others), this is also a gripping thriller written in lucid and compelling prose. Let's hear it, too, for the translator." - Brandon Robshaw, Independent on Sunday

  • "Martinez's novel is full of explanations and parried literary thrusts, culminating in a growing sense of understanding that order and chaos aren't yin and yang but mirror images of each other." - Sarah Weinman, The Los Angeles Times

  • "This is a clever, chilling novel that takes crime writing to a new level." - Joan Smith, Sunday Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       By changing the title of the book in its English translation, from La muerte lenta de Luciana B. -- 'The slow death of Luciana B.' -- to The Book of Murder, the reader's approach to the novel also shifts. It's one of those odd cases where the English title isn't so much wrong -- it is appropriate enough -- but makes for a very different reading of the book.
       The Book of Murder is narrated by a moderately successful author. Ten years earlier he had broken his wrist and, unable to type, hired the young student Luciana to type his manuscript; his editor had suggested it, aware that Luciana was the typist of the more successful writer Kloster, who was away that month and did not need her services. That was the only time the narrator had any contact with her, but suddenly she's resurfaced, desperately seeking his help.
       Luciana is in terrible shape, and she has a terrible story to tell. Over the years several of her loved ones -- her boyfriend, parents, and brother -- have died tragic deaths -- and Luciana is certain that Kloster is behind these. She tells her whole story, explaining why Kloster would seek revenge on her and the mysterious and at least moderately suspicious circumstances under which her loved ones died. And she's worried that he's not finished yet, either.
       The narrator has his doubts, but it makes for a plausible story. Kloster is too frequently present near or around Luciana and her loved ones. And then there's the fact that Kloster's own books are filled with death -- and, so the narrator, that he is clearly evil.
       There's also the fact that Kloster has been enormously successful -- "he loomed over us like a colossus" -- and there's surely a touch of professional jealousy at work here too.
       Luciana now fears that her younger sister is next on Kloster's hitlist, and begs the narrator to confront Kloster. Everyone she's confided her suspicions to hasn't, ultimately, believed her, but the narrator agrees to at least try to hear Kloster's side of the story. He writes up Luciana's version -- a little manuscript of murder ... -- and arranges to meet Kloster.
       Kloster does, indeed, offer a different side of the same story, and Martínez does a decent job of making it as plausible (or not) as Luciana's version was. Doubts about cause and effect remain -- and then there is Kloster's own book, and the role it might play.
       There's no question at the end that Kloster is, indeed, evil, and there's also some satisfaction in what triumphs here, amidst all the ambiguity, but Martínez doesn't tell his tale quite well enough to realyy pull it all off. Well-conceived -- it's a good idea -- it's a bit lumpy for crime fiction, and while Martínez's literary games don't really weigh it down too much, they aren't as cleanly integrated into the whole as they might be.
       The Book of Murder has some appeal, but is also somewhat flat and forced.

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Links:

The Book of Murder: Reviews: Other books by Guillermo Martínez under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentinian author Guillermo Martínez was born in 1962. He teaches mathematics at the University of Buenos Aires.

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© 2008 the complete review

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