#BlogTour- Mercedes Rosende- The Hand That Feeds You (tr. Tim Gutteridge) @mujerequivocada @TimG_translator @bitterlemonpub

The attempted robbery of the armoured car in the back streets of Montevideo is a miserable failure. A lucky break for the intrepid Ursula Lopez who manages to snatch all the loot, more hindered than helped by her faint-hearted and reluctant companion Diego. Only now, the wannabe robbers are hot on her heels. As is the police. And Ursula’s sister. But Ursula turns out to be enormously talented when it comes to criminal undertakings, and given the hilarious ineptitude of those in pursuit, she might just pull it off…

A couple of years ago now, I had the pleasure of reviewing Crocodile Tears , the first book featuring the wonderful Ursula Lopez. With shades of Fargo and featuring this truly mercurial and ballsy female protagonist, it left a marked impression on me, and so, of course, I was keen as mustard to get back on the mean streets of Montevideo and see what the indomitable Ursula was getting up to next…

Once again, this book reads as a twisted love letter to Montevideo, unashamed to highlight the good and the bad of this energetic and pulsating city, where poverty and crime go hand in hand with the open hearted spirit and joie de vivre of the city’s inhabitants. I have learnt so much about Uruguay and its environs over the course of these two books, and you will find yourself swept up in the author’s obvious love for the capital city, steeped in history. I have a real passion for books that root you firmly in their particular location you are more unfamiliar with, and Rosende achieves this beautifully.

Reading some of the reviews of the book, a couple of critics mention Elmore Leonard as a comparison to Rosende’s writing, and this is absolutely spot on. There is a crispness and sparsity to her prose that serves to achieve what she needs to achieve perfectly, adding an energy and pace to the book that makes it difficult to put down for any length of time. The pace drives the story on at a whip-smart rate, as we see the deceptively street-smart Ursula become entangled in a heist, and a cat and mouse game to keep the loot and her life intact. The dialogue is clipped and edgy, and underscored with dark humour, it will have you smiling wryly throughout. Rosende also repeats her now familiar trope of good dollops of authorial intrusion to direct the reader’s attention this way and that, which also adds a certain spark and more humour to the overall plot. The characterisation is superb, with Ursula navigating safe passage between a bent police officer, an incredibly shady lawyer, a ruthless criminal, and her own slightly dense partner in crime, the woefully pathetic Diego. As Ursula relies on her smarts to keep one step ahead of those that would liberate the heist money from her sticky mitts, and also save her sister, unwittingly caught up in the chaos, Rosende also manages to squeeze in some pertinent observations on Ursula’s daddy issues, the futility of religion and absolution, and that you should never underestimate a woman who resembles a dumpy librarian…

With another lively and pitch perfect translation from Tim Gutteridge, I was instantly immersed back into the world of Ursula Lopez, and I think my new credo should be, ‘what would Ursula do?’ as she is a complete force of nature. Smart, funny, fast and furious, The Hand That Feeds You is an absolute gem of a book, and if you want a complete distraction from the inanity and depressive nature of life today, I would heartily recommend this to you. Highly recommended.


Mercedes Rosende was born in 1958 in Montevideo, Uruguay. She is a lawyer and a journalist when not writing fiction. She has won many prizes for her novels and short stories. In 2005 she won the Premio Municipal de Narrativa für ‘Demasiados Blues’, in 2008 the National Literature Prize for ‘La Muerte Tendrá tus Ojos’ and in 2019 the LiBeraturpreis in Germany for ‘Crocodile Tears’. She lives in Montevideo. 

(With thanks to Bitter Lemon Press for the ARC)

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