Fitter’s debut novel chronicles the exploits of an increasingly successful business owner who struggles to steer clear of corruption in 1940s Mexico City.
Arturo Fuentes’ affair with the lovely, politically connected Silvia ends abruptly when she is murdered in the bar where they are scheduled to meet. Aleman, a jealous politician next in line for president, seems the most likely suspect, but it’s the thuggish Sen. Carlos Serrano who contacts Arturo. Serrano is interested in silica, the high-grade sand Arturo uses for his glassblowing company. Arturo’s business soon flourishes, aided by the connections he makes by dating famous dancer Mercedes, but several mysterious deaths and a drug trafficking ring threaten both Arturo’s business and his freedom. Fitter’s novel begins as a murder mystery, yet as Arturo’s grief dissipates, so too does the potential mystery. The bulk of the story details Fuentes’ rise and his relations with shady characters. The focus on business, though less tantalizing than the unsolved murder, is remarkably comprehensive; Arturo is defined by such corporate decisions as constructing employee housing and planning a nightclub to be named after Mercedes. The mystery doesn’t return until much later in the novel, but it is augmented throughout the text by glimpses of Arturo reporting to a “Special Presidential Investigator.” A string of deaths that may be murders and Arturo’s Kafkaesque imprisonment heighten the book’s intrigue. Arturo finds relief in the company of Mercedes and fichera dancer Ana, who both add dramatic tension but are too much alike. Nevertheless, they’re both firm support for Arturo, and are only outdone by the dangerous and charming Serrano, who shepherds Arturo through the ranks while offering him a glimpse of the dark side of success.
Stylish prose and a vivid portrayal of Mexican landscapes and cuisine keep this often unsteady story on course.