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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Night Will Be Long

Santiago Gamboa

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To purchase The Night Will Be Long

Title: The Night Will Be Long
Author: Santiago Gamboa
Genre: Novel
Written: 2019 (Eng. 2021)
Length: 392 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Night Will Be Long - US
Será larga la noche - US
The Night Will Be Long - UK
The Night Will Be Long - Canada
Des hommes en noir - France
Sarà lunga la notte - Italia
Será larga la noche - España
  • Spanish title: Será larga la noche
  • Translated by Andrea Rosenberg

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Our Assessment:

B : a bit too far-flung, but engaging enough

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Washington Post . 4/11/2021 Richard Lipez

  From the Reviews:
  • "(A) richly textured thriller about competing religious organizations in post-civil-war Colombia." - Richard Lipez, The Washington Post

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:

       The Night Will Be Long begins with a dramatic shoot-out in the depths of the Colombia countryside, three SUVs ambushed but the bodyguards in them fighting back before the passengers of the middle car are rescued by a helicopter. It's a pretty large-scale confrontation -- and yet: "the incident simply disappeared". Cleaners clear the site of practically any traces -- not just the bodies but even the shell-casings -- and a preliminary police report disappears, while the locals quickly toe the line and agree that: "nothing happened". But enough information seeps out -- in an anonymous call -- to draw some attention, specifically that of prosecutor Edison Jutsiñamuy, who then gets his journalist-friend Julieta Lezama interested, leading her to set off and start sniffing around, along with her assistant, Johana, a one-time-member of the guerilla group, FARC.
       There was one eyewitness, the boy who made the phone call, a young teenager named Franklin Vanegas, and Julieta and Johana meet him and hear his account. Soon later, however, Franklin too disappears, and for much of the novel Julieta and Johana are also searching for the boy -- who never knew his parents, who were also guerilla fighters -- while they continue their investigations into the mysterious ambush, trying to figure out both who the intended victim was, and who might have been behind it.
       There has also been a flurry of religious activity in the area, and a Pastor Fritz, who leads a successful new church, looks to have been the man who was targeted in the ambush -- though he denies it. These churches are big business -- and also highly secured, with those coming to the services carefully screened at the door and Pastor Fritz, for example, well-protected by a large crew of bodyguards.
       Julieta is enthusiastic about the unfolding story, telling the editor at the Mexican newspaper that's paying for the story (investigative journalism apparently still well-funded in Latin America ...):

Daniel, the story's going really well. Three corpses have shown up by the side of a highway. There are evangelical churches involved, and pastors.
       She meets with Pastor Fritz and though he denies being the intended victim of the ambush, she finds him an impressive and charismatic figure. But he is something of a mystery man -- not least regarding his background:
     "It's like he appeared on Earth just over fifteen years ago," Silanpa said. "There's absolutely nothing from his previous life; apart from his ID, there are no other documents of any kind, no registration at any school or university or even library, no recorded travel out of the country. So basically he was born at thirty-eight. Either he's an alien or he's a textbook example of someone who changed his name to start a new life."
       In a country where many changed their names and lives, especially after the peace accords that ended the guerilla uprising this isn't entirely unusual -- except for that his change goes back much further, and is even more complete than most. So is his past catching up to him ? And what was that past ? Both Julieta and Jutsiñamuy continue to dig around to try to figure it out.
       There's a lot of traveling around, by both Julieta and Jutsiñamuy, with Julieta ultimately even heading to French Guiana -- which proves surprisingly difficult to get to from Colombia. They both also dig into Colombia's thriving church-scene, which clearly plays a role in what happened, as the role of evangelical churches, springing up right and left, is a significant part of the story -- though the mystery does not boil down to one of (simple religious warfare.
       Jutsiñamuy reminds Julieta:
Remember, in this country, everything out of the ordinary turns out to be either a crime or a miracle.
       Neither is convinced by miracles, but even as the end-result of the crimes are obvious -- bodies keep piling up, mostly of private security worker -- what's behind them long remains a mystery.
       There are apparent connections between the initial ambush and later killings -- but, as an associate of Jutsiñamuy points out:
But if you think about it, everything that happens every day in this country is suspect, and it could all be tied to a single case.
       Which seems to be one of the points Gamboa is making: Colombia's recent history, especially of civil conflict, permeates the entire society, the aftereffects still constantly bubbling to the surface, even as the present-day economy is thriving. (Drugs play a role in the story too, but a decidedly secondary one -- with another form of economic exploitation ultimately playing a more significant role).
       Along the way, Julieta speaks with a cross-section of Colombian society, from religious leaders -- notably Pastor Fritz -- to the relatives of the security guards who were killed. Gamboa allows many of these characters to tell their own stories -- testimonies of sorts -- and this contributes to the book as a whole having the feel of a tour through much of contemporary Colombian life. Bits of color, such as Julieta's weakness for alcohol (and her relationship with her ex, who is taking care of their two sons in her absence) or also teenager Franklin Vanegas feel a bit forced, but then there is a lot of padding (and plodding) in this rather long novel; Gamboa tries to work in a sense of urgency, but mostly things move forward fairly step by step -- decent if somewhat slow pacing.
       The explanation for the ambush and its consequences isn't bad but it's a bit lost in the far-flung investigations and the very winding roads Julieta and Jutsiñamuy travel here. Their paths, and the encounters and discoveries along the way, are not uninteresting but also don't always serve the story well; there's certainly a sense of bloat here. It makes for a decent read, solid in exposition but a bit too unfocused on the heart of the matter.

- M.A.Orthofer, 28 November 2021

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The Night Will Be Long: Reviews: Other books by Santiago Gamboa under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Colombian author Santiago Gamboa was born in 1965.

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© 2021 the complete review

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