Filiberto Garcia is a worried man. He has successfully maintained his reputation as a ruthless assassin for many years, but age is beginning to take its toll. He begins to doubt that he can pull off his most difficult assignment: he is to stop a whispered Mongolian scheme to murder the President of the United States while he is on a trip to Mexico. Despite his aversion to the forces of law and order, Garcia is obliged to deal with the machinations of both the KGB and the FBI, and as the body count around him inexorably rises, one problem becomes more pressing than even his putative assignment: why was he hired for this job in the first place?
This is one of those novels which may be better known for its reputation than actually being read – at least in the English-speaking world. Written in 1969, Katherine Silver’s adroit English translation represents the first time the book has been rendered into English, and it has certainly been worth the wait. Rafael Bernal’s background might be said to have parallels with that of the English writer Derek Raymond (a.k.a. Robin Cook): a cultivated figure from a privileged background who chooses to write about lowlifes – and does it with considerable skill and insight. A Mexican diplomat, he wrote this novel (twice adapted for the screen) when he was First Secretary at the Mexican Embassy in Lima, and the strange combination of the seedy and the elegant in the prose is idiomatically rendered here, making it quite unlike most crime novels that the reader is likely to have encountered. Well worth the wait for its English translation.
Reviewed by Barry Forshaw
THE MONGOLIAN CONSPIRACY
Written by Rafael Bernal
Translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver
Published by Pushkin Vertigo (2019)
Barry Forshaw’s books include Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide, the Keating Award-winning Brit Noir and Nordic Noir. Other work: Death in a Cold Climate, Sex and Film and the British Crime Writing encyclopedia (also a Keating Award winner). He edits Crime Time.
Read Barry Forshaw’s #RivetingReview of KILL THE ANGEL by Sandrone Dazieri