Menu:

Book covers




  

Sergio Olguin: The FRAGILITY of BODIES.        BITTER LEMON PRESS 
£8.99  pages  320
09 July 2019

 ISBN: 9781912242191


         

The complaint in Argentina is that railway journeys are so slow because subsequent governments never replaced the rail track laid by the British in the 19th Century.  Not slow enough, though, to want to be hit by a train.  ‘The Fragility Of Bodies’ has appealed to native Argentineans and has been converted into an acclaimed South American TV series.  After ‘The Taking Of Pelham 123’, which appeared in the 1970s, a thriller based on shenanigans on a railway line is well overdue.  This time, though, the criminals are members of a corrupt Buenos Aires administration.  They organise poor kids to play chicken on the railway lines and bet on which one will lose their nerve first in front of the approaching train.  Some of the kids miscalculate and die but the game has to continue so that those with money can have their fun. 

Veronica is the journalist who is curious about the impact of accidents on train drivers.  The investigation by Veronica is not complicated but, like a railway line, it soon veers into another direction.  And just when the book looks like it might run out of denouement the drama builds into a cracking climax that would not have appeared out of place in the early James Bond books.   Veronica is nicknamed Supergirl by some of the kids that help her uncover the conspiracy.  The nickname is apt.  Veronica, like early Bond, drinks and smokes to excess, is attractive to the opposite sex, probably looks great, and is not averse to having one night stands and an affair with a married man.  A decent portion of the book explores this affair, and in common with a few Argentinean movies the sex is explicit and aggressive.   After reading what Veronica likes to do with an available male body more than one reader will wonder if they need to get out more.  Bond stories used to be famous for the sacrificial female.  ‘The Fragility Of Bodies’ nods to that convention but swaps the gender.  But if all that sounds too Bond, the hard and cynical edge of Veronica makes her believable, especially in a city like Buenos Aires where the natives lost their illusions a while back and the scars still show. 

Author Sergio Olguín captures the abrasiveness of the capital well, the supportive but nihilistic approach to life that helps people survive.  Olguín is also good at detail.  In the beginning of the book he is not afraid of repeating information so that the reader will be comfortable with what follows and the subsequent fast moving events.  The dovetail between the two conspiracies could have been neater but that is nit picking.  It does not detract from what is a very satisfying thriller.  When Veronica appears again, there will be readers wanting another adventure.   James Bond was not allowed to achieve a settled domestic relationship, and Veronica will need to delve into the underbelly of Buenos Aires and take advantage of any man she can.   Unlike Bond, though, the book is not all about Veronica.  The poor kids from the neglected barrios are not forgotten, and their continuing struggle should haunt readers.

 By Howard Jackson