Urgent Matters by Paula Rodriguez – review

Published by Pushkin Vertigo

Publication date – 3 November 2022

Source  – review copy

The Yankees are more astute when it comes to matters like these. They say “not guilty”. They don’t say “innocent”. Because as far as innocence goes, no one can make that claim.

A train crashes in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, leaving forty-three people dead. A prayer card of Saint Expeditus, the patron saint of urgent matters, flutters above the wreckage.

Hugo, a criminal on the run for murder, is on the train. He seizes his chance to sneak out of the wreckage unsuspected, abandoning his possessions – and, he hopes, his identity – among bodies mangled beyond recognition.

As the police descend on the scene, only grizzled Detective Domínguez sees a link between the crash and his murder case. Soon, he’s on Hugo’s tail. But he hasn’t banked on everything from the media to his mother-in-law getting in the way.

A typical day. Commuters are making their way to work. Among them is Hugo. Locksmith and murder suspect. But it is no typical day as the train he is travelling on crashes, killing forty three people. Hugo makes the most of the opportunity and leaves his identity behind with those killed. However Detective Dominguez doesn’t think that Hugo did die. He’s determined to dig deeper, to discover the truth.

The story starts at the immediate aftermath of the crash. Hugo is stuck, crushed under a pile of bodies. He manages to free his arms and text his wife Marta, who has messaged him to come home. As he waits to be freed he realises that his past may have caught up with him, that the police are looking for him and that this may be the opportunity to shed his old identity. The story follows him, Marta, their daughter and Marta’s family as Detective Dominguez tries to track Hugo down.

This is not a crime novel, though there is a police officer searching for a missing suspect. It is rather a character study. There are issues that need uncovering, the state of the relationship between Marta and Hugo, the true nature of his relationship with Marta’s mother Olga. Hugo is involved in the death of a young gang member and that history emerges as Hugo tries to travel further away from his past.

I loved the setting of the novel. I’m eager to read fiction, and crime fiction in particular, from  different countries so on set in Argentina was one I couldn’t resist. There’s a slightly surreal detached feel to the book, in part because of the fact it’s translated. That doesn’t mean it detracts from the story, it doesn’t. It’s easy to forget it is translated; always a sign of a good translation.

I was expecting more of a crime/detective story. However, once I realised that this wasn’t to be the case with Urgent Matters, I soon got caught up in whether Hugo would be caught, and how those around would deal with any ramifications from his disappearance.

An interesting tale about trying to outrun our pasts.


One Comment Add yours

  1. JacquiWine says:

    Not an author I’ve come across before, so thank you for the introduction, Janet. This does sound very compelling!


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