Joaquín Alzada is a police inspector who has a thinner line to walk than most. Twenty years ago, he had to maintain a balance between his sympathy for anti-government protesters. Now, he has to hold the thin blue line just long enough to make it to retirement. In Repentence, by Eloísa Díaz, we see Joaquín in 1981 and in 2001, at two turning points in his life. Joaquín is a wily man and, as he tries to walk a straight path through a lot of crooked streets, we see him use everything he’s learned to find two missing people.
Between 1976 and 1983 (plus or minus several years), Argentina’s government was at war with Argentina’s people. We don’t know how many people were killed during the Dirty War. In 1981, Joaquín is an agent of the government while his brother is quietly working for the revolution. Well, he thinks quietly. It isn’t long into Repentence before Joaquín’s brother is disappeared. In 2001, a much more world-weary Joaquín is given the task of finding a wealthy young woman who went missing. Unlike Joaquín’s brother two decades earlier, lots of people want to find the missing woman.
Twenty years has changed Joaquín. The juxtaposition between the two versions of Joaquín—and the things that remain the same—are fascinating to see. It’s also interesting to see what’s different about Buenos Aires and Argentine in 1981 and 2001. And as intriguing as comparisons are, it’s that much more compelling to think about the big questions this book asks. Will the government and powers that be always win? Or is there hope that things don’t always have to be this way? Will the ordinary people finally beat the bad guys? Will Joaquín finally be able to do good without having to check with what the men upstairs?
And to make this book just that much better, Joaquín is pure entertainment to watch, with his banter and less-than-regulation ways of policing. I had a surprisingly good time reading Repentence, even though it’s set during one of the grimmest chapters of Argentina’s history.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.