No-one loves a policeman by Guillermo Orsi

No-one loves a policeman by Guillermo Orsi

When I began reading No-one loves a policeman by Guillermo Orsi I had no idea how much fun and enjoyment I’d get from the book – set in its entirety in Argentina and taking in the iconic Buenos Aires, the sand dunes and coastal retreat of Mediomundo and Bahia Blanca in the South West, No-one loves a policemen is so much more than a crime thriller.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous foreign title reviews, translation is key and Orsi’s offering has been reverently translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor who has incidentally translated numerous titles from the Spanish language – a wonderfully fluid translation evoking memories of a country in political and financial jeopardy.

Set in 2001, Argentina is on the brink of financial ruin, the economy preparing to take a nosedive – not for the first time – and where anyone who could afford to do so was buying up dollars and discarding pesos. But with the banks enforcing a restriction on the amount customers were allowed to withdraw, Argentina was on a precipice.

The most endearing thing I took from this book was Guillermo’s humour told through the eyes and ears of Pablo Martelli’s narration. Martelli, the main protagonist, is an ageing toilet salesman, sorry a salesman of bathroom furniture who used to be a policeman – but he doesn’t tell anyone that – the policeman’s lot isn’t a happy one in Argentina! Martelli was once a member of a federal police department better known as the “National Shame”.  From the very first chapter we get a flavour of Martelli’s character when he bemoans receiving phone calls after midnight – it never brings him good news and his latest post-midnight call is no exception!

It is December 2001, and Argentina is in economic meltdown. While the country wallows in corruption, cynicism and indifference, Gotan, an ex-cop from the Federal Police, lives in the past. He cannot forget the beguiling woman who briefly set alight his life – she disappeared as soon as he revealed he had worked for the ‘National Shame’. Gotan is called urgently late one night to a friend’s coastal retreat. He arrives too late: his friend is dead and his girlfriend has vanished. Using all his resources to find the girl, Gotan finds himself embroiled in a plot that goes to the heart of Argentina itself. Though no longer part of the force, Gotan is still a cop by nature. But his is a dangerous undertaking: after all, no-one loves a policeman.

No-one loves a policeman reminded me of a road trip made by four ageing characters – two current policemen, a bathroom furniture salesman and a portly doctor – all have seen better days but together they formed the three musketeers –slightly decrepit – but musketeers nonetheless! We travel up and down Argentina through Guillermo’s vision of a country in strife

Characterisation is wonderful and despite Martelli’s leading role Burgos (the portly doctor) stole the show for me with his desire to help Martelli prove his innocence yet at the same time drive while sleeping at 150 kph! Still not sure how he got away with that but when he asks his colleagues to follow behind and sound the horn if he starts to zig zag was pure genius!

“I prefer to practice medicine on the dead,” Burgos concluded, stacking the plates and carrying them to the sink like a good housewife. “I don’t have to compete with any social climbers who use the Hippocratic oath to conceal the dirty business they’re involved in, and I don’t run any risk of being sued for malpractice”.

The re-occurring theme I have always found with foreign titles is their ability to spotlight a country’s character and flavour – good or bad, rich or poor – there’s a certain realism that you just don’t find in English titles travelling to the same countries. This is clearly evident in No-one loves a policeman and although it doesn’t portray Argentina in the most favourable of lights it is a rather captivating and beguiling one.

Martelli is a lover of the Tango, he dotes on his cat and he has nothing better to do than answer the telephone after midnight – never a good idea and certainly not for an ex policeman! A cracking book, well worth a read – it will charm, bewitch and entertain with a little black humour thrown in for good measure.

Published by Maclehose Press “No-one loves a policeman” is available from Amazon

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