Seven Ways to Kill a Cat
Author: Matías Néspolo
Translator: Frank Wynne
Original language: Spanish
Published by: Harvill Secker, 2011
View reviews from UK reading groups here
As tense as a thriller, as vivid as an undercover documentary, Matias Nespolo's bold and brilliant first novel takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride through a place of crime and deprivation. Set in Buenos Aires at the time of Argentina's financial crash, and seen through the eyes of twenty-year-old Gringo, it tells the story of two boys on the cusp of adulthood who have no choice but to join the gang warfare that rules their community. At least, Gringo's friend Chueco thinks they have no choice. He's determined to prove himself hard enough to get into El Jetita's gang, but smart enough to remain his own man. Gringo is more intelligent. He knows that gangs don't work like that: you obey the leader or else. As the two get drawn ever deeper into a pitched battle between El Jetita and his rival Charly over control of the barrio's drugs and prostitution, Gringo sees a life of love and loss pass before his eyes. A few days before, he was joking with Chueco about killing cats. Now, he's fighting to save his skin.
Written in the street-slang of the slums, and full of fantastic characters from the sympathetic Gringo to the ruthless gang leader El Jetita or the grotesque bar owner Fat Farías, this is one of those novels that is about one place and every place. While its depiction of Buenos Aires rings vibrantly true in every detail, the barrio could be any place of urban deprivation where young men are pushed into a violence that, ultimately, will destroy them.
'An excellent adventure story... with faultless dialogue and at breathtaking pace'
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