Jul 3, 2012
Book Review: Andean Express by Juan de Recacoechea
Andean Express by Juan de Recacoechea
Paperback, published April 1, 2009
Genre: mystery set in Bolivia
I read this library book in June 2009 and wrote the following comments on Goodreads. I thought I'd reprint it for selfish reasons. I hope to have every country on my Flag Counter visit my blog, at lease once. No one from Bolivia has visited my blog site, at least not recently. de Recacoechea is one of their best known novelists.
My comments on the book: I gave this mystery novel 3 1/2 and would probably have given it a four if I could have read it in the original Spanish! Some things are often lost in translation!
The train ride from the bowl of the city of La Paz, Bolivia up to its rim, across the stark and dry plateau, and then down to the coastline of Chile was the highlight of the book for me. Descriptions of the scenery, the sunsets, the people, and the few lonely homesteads on the plateau, were very interesting. I once flew over the Andes on the way from Brazil back to the U.S. and ofen wondered what it was like down below.
Also, relationships among mestizos, Indians, and Europeans in Bolivia are revealed on board the Andean Express. Granted this train ride was set some 40 years ago, I believe, and there is a hint in the novel about pending social change by a new political party.
The plot followed the general scheme of Murder on the Orient Express and other mystery train rides, but this "noir" novel is not a traditional mystery. Alderete has married a young woman from the upper social classes in Bolivia. It's an arranged marriage. Alderete is hated by close to a dozen people on the train, including his reluctant bride. A young high school graduate traveling to Chile to meet his parents witnesses the interactions and is used as an unwitting pawn in the developments.
Noir and mystery lovers, and armchair travelers, will enjoy Andean Express."
About the Author: Juan de Recacoechea was born in La Paz, Bolivia, and worked as a journalist in Europe for almost twenty years. After returning to his native country, he helped found Bolivia's first state-run television network and dedicated himself to fiction writing. His novel American Visa won Bolivia's National Book Prize; was adapted into an award-winning film. Adrian Althoff is a freelance journalist and translator based in La Paz, Bolivia and Washington, D.C.