Haunted by nightmares of her past, Verónica is soon involved in a new investigation. Darío, the sole survivor of a car accident that supposedly killed all of his family, is convinced that his wife and child have in fact survived and that his wife has abducted their child. Then a truck searched in the port of Buenos Aires on suspicion of drug trafficking, is revealed to be transporting human body parts. These seemingly separate incidents prove to be linked in a shadowy web of complicity involving political and religious authorities.
There Are No Happy Loves is the next in the Argentinian based series from Sergio Olguín tr. Miranda France, featuring intrepid journalist Verónica Rosenthal. Having read, and enjoyed immensely the previous books: The Fragility Of Bodies and The Foreign Girls I am very pleased to tantalize you with an extract from the latest book…
He thought it was the end of the summer and didn’t realize it was the end of everything. A few minutes from now, life as he had known it would fall apart once and for all. Nothing would ever be the same again.
White lines: double and continuous, avoid passing other vehicles; single and broken, accelerate and overtake the cars and trucks obstructing his steady progress towards the capital, Buenos Aires. That was all Darío saw: the white lines of Route 11, illuminated by the low beam of his car lights. Everything around him was black, dense and interminable. Like his mood.
The red lights in front of him gradually came into focus. Darío gently braked, shifted down a gear and fell in behind the car, which was travelling at less than sixty miles an hour. Double white lines on the asphalt indicated an approaching bend, so he couldn’t overtake. As he took the bend, Darío checked the opposite carriageway and saw no white light to show a vehicle coming the other way. He accelerated and overtook the car. Once they were a safe distance ahead, he got back in his lane, and the other car soon dissolved into the nothingness behind them.
It was the end of the vacation. A fortnight during which Darío had confirmed what he already knew but couldn’t yet bring himself to put into words: the relationship with Cecilia was over. They had to separate immediately. Those fourteen days had been a torment, barely mitigated by Jazmín’s hap- piness on the beach, watching her run to meet the breaking waves, her contagious laughter at each new discovery. The photos they had taken on vacation would likely be the last in which Jazmín appeared with both parents. Would she remember anything from those days? What hazy memory might she retain in the future? Her father and mother drinking maté in the beach hut, perhaps, or her dozing in the shade of a parasol, playing in the arcade with her cousin in the evening, or getting ice cream on the main street of La Lucila del Mar.
The five women travelling with him were all asleep. Cecilia was next to him, her head resting against the window. Behind them were his mother-in-law, his sister-in-law, with her daugh- ter on her lap, and Jazmín. He couldn’t see her in the rear- view mirror, but Darío could picture his daughter sleeping peacefully, her sun-kissed face, her rhythmic breathing. He had always liked to watch Jazmín when she slept, a habit that began when she was a baby and he used to fear that she might succumb to sudden infant death syndrome. He would sit beside the cot while she slept, or keep going to check that she was breathing. It’s comforting, when you’re a parent, to watch your children sleeping, safe from pain and danger.
Cecilia woke up. Wiping the saliva from around her mouth, she scanned the road for some reference point that would show their progress.
“Where are we?” “We’ve just passed General Lavalle, still a long way to go.” Cecilia turned and looked at Jazmín. Seeing her asleep seemed to soothe some worry left over from her dreams.
“I think I had a nightmare,” she said, but didn’t elaborate.
Darío expressed no interest in his wife’s dream. For several days now their conversations had been as brief as possible. That policy was at least an improvement on their previous tendency always to be saying hurtful things to each other. In fact, their last screaming match (unwitnessed, thankfully) still induced a physical response in Darío. He felt nauseous to think of it, especially when he remembered his wife’s threat. He could still see her, her face burning as she said, “I’m going to take the girl and you’ll never see us again, you bastard.” She knew that Jazmín was his world, that nothing could hurt him like losing his daughter. What might Cecilia do to separate him from Jazmín? Make some false allegation? Anyone who knew him would testify that Darío was a good father, even his wife’s mother and sister, who were travelling with them now, pained witnesses to the destruction of their marriage.
Nobody would ever separate him from his daughter. Nobody. He gripped the steering wheel harder, trying to discharge
the sensations of frustration and hatred that had completely engulfed him. Cecilia settled into a more comfortable position for sleeping. Gradually Darío felt calmer. He would have liked to put on the radio, but he didn’t want to disturb the girls’ peaceful sleep.
Behind their car, he saw a light in the distance. It came from a vehicle travelling faster than theirs. In a few seconds it would pass them and he would fall behind, watching its tail lights get smaller and then disappear. In the rear-view mirror he saw the light become two low beams on a car like his own. Looking ahead, he saw more lights coming towards him.
It took one second, maybe two.
The car behind them pulled out to overtake, with no consideration for the light rapidly bearing down on them.
Darío dropped his speed, trying to facilitate the manoeuvre. But the other motorist’s mistake was compounded by a bad decision on the part of the approaching fuel truck. Its driver must have thought that the overtaking car would mount the verge to avoid a collision and that he could steer a middle course, taking his vehicle between the two approaching cars. Instead, he crashed into both of them.
There was nothing Darío could have done. A giant cleaver seemed to slice him in two and he heard a metallic noise, like thunder inside his head, and a howl, one single howl made up of all their separate cries; he saw a white light, a gigantic flash. Had the car flipped over? Was it a wreck? Was it crushed beneath the truck? After a few seconds Darío lost all consciousness. He had no idea how much time passed before someone pulled him out of the vehicle and dragged him a few yards away from it. Nor did he know how long it was between that moment and the explosion of the fuel truck. He heard the blast, felt heat graze his skin. He tried to move his body towards the fireball, pushing forward with one sole aim: Jazmín. But he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t stand up. And everything after that was a blank.
Sergio Olguín was born in Buenos Aires in 1967 and was a journalist before turning to fiction. Olguín has won a number of awards, among others the Premio Tusquets 2009 for his novel Oscura monotona sangre (“Dark Monotonous Blood”). His books have been translated into German, French and Italian. The Veronica Rosenthal series (“The Fragility of Bodies”, “The Foreign Girls” and “There Are No Happy Loves”) is his first work to be translated into English. Follow on Twitter @olguinserg.
(With thanks to Bitter Lemon Press For the ARC)
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