Really South of the Border

South American & Latin American Eyes

Despite the fact that in real life private investigation is booming in South America these days (according to Edilmar Lima, the president of a leading Brasilia-based detectives’ association with more than 2,000 investigadores on its books, very few private eye novels from South American have been written, much less translated (or even heard of) in the English speaking world.

Perhaps the dearth of gumshoes is because, as Cayetano Brulé muses in Robert Ampuero’s thoroughly enjoyable The Neruda Case (2008):

In Latin America–where improvisation, randomness, corruption and venality were the order of the day… European detectives weren’t worth a thing. In those Amazonian, Andean or Caribbean worlds, detectives such as Dupin, Holmes or Poirot would find their dazzling detective powers failing to clear matters up. The crux of the problem was that the North’s logic simply didn’t apply in Latin America. Nor would Miss Marple, Marlowe or Sam Spade find any success.

But, as Darrell B. Lockhart argues in Latin American Mystery Writers: An A-to-Z Guide:

Why…must detective fiction in Latin America be hard-boiled? Because the reality of the genre allows for no other options… … the genre is no longer approached from the viewpoint of a dubious “justice” system or in defense of the equally suspect established order. Current Latin American hard-boiled literature questions everything: The boundaries of the “law” are neither so rigid nor so clearly defined.



  • Mandrake by Ruben Fonseca



List respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith.

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