Young boys from poor families in Buenos Aires are being lured into lethal games of chicken on the railroad tracks. Investigating the story, dedicated magazine reporter Veronica Rosenthal faces threats of her own.
The deadly games pit one boy against another. The last to jump away from the onrushing train to safety is paid 100 pesos—the equivalent of $2 American but a huge sum to these kids. The deaths have cast a pall on train travel, traumatizing drivers. One tormented engineer who also ran over three suicidal adults violently kills himself. Other drivers, including Lucio, who becomes Veronica's guide through this underworld, can't put aside their hatred for the victims for messing up the drivers' lives. Lucio, a married man who becomes Veronica's lover and partner in punishing sex, helps her track down the families of the young victims—and potential victims, including 10-year-old Peque. Accepted into a neighborhood soccer club by a coach out to program him as a train jumper, he survives his first bout and quickly spends the money on candy, chips, and Coke. Even after the deadliness of the game sinks in, he can't stay away—just as Veronica can't stay away from Lucio and the emotional perils he represents. It takes a while to adjust to Olguín’s flat narrative style and neutered tone, both of which may owe something to the translation. (Published in Spanish in 2012, this is the first of Olguín’s novels to be translated into English.) But the story is so gripping and Veronica is such a fascinating departure from crime fiction convention—she's 30, Jewish, brazen, and openly flawed—that the book becomes difficult to put down. Also a very good novel about journalism, it's the first installment of a trilogy.
An unusual, intoxicating thriller from Argentina that casts deeper and deeper shadows.