Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Booknote: La Virgen de los Sicarios

Title: La Virgen de los Sicarios
Author: Fernando Vallejo
Publication Information: Madrid: Punto de lectura, 1994
ISBN: 84-663-0164-X
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 174

This is a convoluted story that takes place in Medellín, Colombia. The narrator goes along telling us the story as his boy murders various people in the city, often for no other reason than the victims were annoying. You see, the boy is an assassin for hire, a sicario. Many boys in their teens serve in this role in the city, as angels of death. The narrator is often giving little explanations about the culture, treating the readers as outsiders or tourists who may not know the reality of Colombia that he lives in. This older man, whose name we do not learn until later in the book, is in love with the boy. They are lovers, so I should warn readers that if this topic is offensive, the book is not for them. However other than minimal references of sharing a bed, there is no graphic detail in that regard. The killings are more graphic. I was not sure what to make of this story. Initially, I was drawn to it by the narrator's casual and conversational style, but there are some passages which tend to be a little verbose. Also, the book lacks any chapters or subdivisions. It is one long narration from page one to the last page, which is reflective of the intense situation and setting where one never knows when death will come to visit. The book has been described as a love story and a story of perdition. Indeed, they are lost in a city where there is no law, and a bullet can come by at any time. I will say there is a twist towards the end that makes the novel intriguing and leaves the reader wondering. When I discovered it, I lost my breath for seconds. However it came a bit late for me, and by then, I was a bit tired of the book as it has a very heavy dark tone.

Readers who like a blend of darkness and pessimism in their fiction might like this work. The blurb on the cover about an angel of death initially suggested to me it might be a book about a serial killer, but I soon saw that was far from the truth. The blurb on the back cover calls it a hallucinating journey through Colombian reality. Yet, while I am sure things in Colombia are not good, and they are probably as the book describes, the plot is pretty simple since it is mostly the narrator and the boy getting rid of those who seem to bother them, which seems to be just about anyone that crosses their path. For me, at least, the novelty of that wore off after a while. The urban setting is captured well; Vallejo does describe the city and its environs well. Overall, I have read better works of fiction. The book has been made into a movie, but I am not sure it will make it to the States. I am not recommending the book, but as it is a pretty short read, some readers looking for something different with some time to spare may want to take a look at it.

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