Betty Boo: Claudia Piñiero

“Sometimes we can take the right road, sometimes we have to take other roads without knowing whether or not they are going to lead where we want to go.”

Argentinean crime writer Claudia Piñiero takes us back to familiar territory, an elite community for the very privileged, in her latest crime novel, Betty Boo. In Thursday Night Widows, Piñiero explores the dark secrets that reside in the seemingly affluent gated community and the scandal that erupts when 3 men are found dead in a swimming pool. Betty Boo begins with La Maravillosa Country Club, a Buenos Aires community whose exclusivity and high security does not prevent the occurrence of a vicious murder. The dead man, Pedro Chazarreta, was the suspect in the recent high-profile murder of his wife. Although many considered him guilty, the case was dismissed “on the grounds of lack of evidence,” but now found murdered in exactly the same fashion, in the same house, Chazarreta seems to have received the death he deserved.

Betty Boo

The murder brings together a handful of main characters, including former crime reporter, Jaime Brena. Now humiliatingly demoted to writing meaningless, trite articles for the society section at El Tribuno, Brena, divorced and fighting for possession of his books, looks forward to the time he will own a dog, imagining how the relationship will be and what sort of pet owner he will become. He understands he’s a loner and that makes any relationships problematic:

Only a solitary person is able to be at the side of another without feeling the need, the obligation to possess or change him.

The new crime reporter, dubbed ‘Crime Boy’ by Brena doesn’t seem to have a clue about how to do his job, and Brena, somewhat reluctantly takes the new reporter under his wing. Meanwhile, slimy womanizer, the El Tribuno‘s editor Lorenzo Rinaldi hires Nurit Iscar, dubbed “the Dark Lady of Argentine fiction,” and also nicknamed Betty Boo for her dark curls, to write literary articles about the murder from the vantage point of a plush house within La Maravillosa. Nurit was once a writer of best-selling crime novels but she made the mistake of falling in love during an affair with a married man who had no intention of leaving his wife.

Because you were in love, your head was somewhere else and love and art don’t get on well. Sex and art do, but not love and art.

With her last book written during the affair, a romance called Only If You Love Me, a complete flop, and after a bitterly critical review, Nurit now refuses to write a novel again. Divorced and her children grown and gone, Nurit is a ghostwriter (escritora fantasma), and she’s currently working on the memoir of a privileged society woman.

Nurit and Brena are both great characters worthy of their own series. Both are now reduced to using their writing skills for survival, not for something they feel passionate about, but for generating soulless, meaningless rubbish on cue. Brena, involved with crime once again, is energized. Nurit’s affair was the inspiration for her ill-fated romance book, and now relying on ghostwriting for the wealthy who have the money to fund their own meaningless memoirs, she chugs along in life, aided and abetted by close female friends. Rinaldi’s offer to write articles for the paper could be just the jumpstart her career needs, or then again, as her friends are convinced, the offer may mask an ulterior motive…

Once Nurit is living in La Maravillosa, writing her own material again, and with life offering her choices, she finds that her old skills never left. The depiction of the elite housing community reveals the highly stratified layers within Argentinean society–the have-a-lots and the have-nots, with people like Crime Boy, Brena, and Nurit somewhere in the middle. The great irony of the novel is that while walls, excessively high security, and guards supposedly guarantee safety, murder stalks La Maravillosa.

She thinks how the quotidian –banal, even-elements of daily life can get mixed up with crime in a fusion that both robs the horror of any drama and makes simple things more horrifying.

 Betty Boo is not as tightly plotted as the previous Piñiero novels I’ve read (there’s a sidetrack history of the Betty Boo character, for example) and the dialogue formatting isn’t reader friendly. Still this is a novel from my favourite crime writer from Argentina, so I’ll call her the real ‘Dark Lady of Argentine Crime Fiction.’ This is a novel about second chances (and if you think about it, revenge is a type of second chance), but on another level the emphasis here is of creating a world of “counter-information,” “being informed from a different point of reference, outside the centers of power: an alternative media.” Since this is an Argentinean novel, the reference to secrets and “unpunished crimes” carries additional significance.

By the same author:

Thursday Night Widows

All Yours

A Crack in the Wall

Review copy

Translated by Miranda France

 

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23 Comments

Filed under Pineiro Claudia

23 responses to “Betty Boo: Claudia Piñiero

  1. She is rather good, isn’t she, I certainly want to read this one as well. And I see that Patricia Melo from Brazil is also starting to get translated and want to read and compare.

    • I read one from Patricia Melo–the body snatcher so I can’t compare a range of works, unfortunately. The class elements are there, but so far I prefer the Piñiero characters.

  2. This is another author who sounds really appealing although based on your comments I’d definitely need to start with an earlier one – I don’t think I’ve read any Argentinian authors.

  3. Like Cleo, I’m keen to try this author. Thursday Night Widows is in my TBR, so it sounds like I’ve picked a good one. Eduardo Sacheri’s The Secret in Their Eyes was one of my fave crime novels from 2015’s clutch of books, so I’d like to continue the Argentine vibe this year.

  4. The characters in this book sound so well drawn.
    People who are sliding down in life often make for very great fiction.

  5. She’s a very clever writer. I like the joke about the failed writer of once best-selling crime novels. Sounds intriguing.

  6. This does sound like something I would enjoy. A crime thriller from Argentina…I’m there. I’ll have to look for this one.

  7. Too bad this one wasn’t as good as the previous ones.
    I’m very interested in ghost writers. I wonder how it feels like to write on behalf of celebrities and then hear them show off about their book.

    All Yours is the one to start with, I understand.

  8. It sounds very good, even if not as great as some of hers. Jacqui, I’m sure you’d like Thursday.

    My main issue with this is a rather shallow one, which is that a few years back (quite a few now) there was a pop song with the chorus:

    “Betty Boo
    Betty Boo just doin’ the do
    And you are through
    And there’s nothing you can do”

    And unfortunately it plays continuously in my head every time I see the title, making this potentially unreadable…

  9. Too much Google, Crime boy! Priceless!

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