In Kass’ debut thriller, a lawyer takes a case that pulls him into the dark world of organized crime and the grim legacy of a past Argentinian conflict.
In 1976, a small private jet crashes in the Sierra Madre in Mexico, killing all three passengers. One of the victims is Ricardo Guttmann, a prominent Argentine banker who’s rumored to have links to the left-wing Montonero guerillas—a paramilitary organization whose principal source of income is ransom from kidnappings. Then a scandal surrounding Guttman’s employer surfaces—more than $200 million has gone missing from the company coffers, and Guttmann is the only person who could possibly explain the discrepancy. Later, a charred body is found, but some people believe it isn’t Guttman’s. In 2017, American lawyer N. David Winkler, who once represented Guttmann’s company, coincidentally meets Maria Theresa Romero, who believes that she may be the banker’s daughter. Maria has evidence that suggests that her mother was a prisoner during Argentina’s notorious “Dirty War” of the 1970s, in which the right-wing dictatorship in power sent death squads after dissidents. It also appears that her adoptive father, an Argentine military officer, may have played a role in her mother’s death. Kass intelligently plumbs the depths of those violent Argentine years, following Winkler’s investigation into Guttmann’s disappearance after he takes Maria on as a client. The author is an attorney, and his knowledge of his story’s legal landscape is impressive, as is his expertise on the history of Argentina. The prose is straightforward and unadorned, for the most part, but sometimes a touch melodramatic; for example, upon meeting Maria, Winkler declaims, “If your mother was right about this, you are the daughter of an infamous man, and our meeting is either an amazing coincidence or some sort of divine intervention.” The plot is also gratuitously labyrinthine. However, Kass poignantly evokes the generational ramifications of Argentina’s most notorious period, in which unspeakable atrocities were committed.
A feast of political intrigue and an astute exploration of Argentina’s nefarious past.