“Three Dead Politicians” by Eduardo Soto Díaz, one of the country’s most interesting crime writers

Eduardo Soto Díaz is the author of several novels in the black genre; This one, published in Spain, is the most recent and in it far surpasses anything he had previously published and ranks next to the most interesting mystery writers in the country, who are not few and whose level is quite high.

The story begins with the murder of lawyer Jorge Villalta, a senatorial candidate for the right-wing Vanguardia Democrática party, in North Maule. It’s a murder mystery. It takes place in the bathroom of a restaurant on the coast, in autumn, when there are no tourists and there are few customers and everyone knows each other. Villalta arrives one Saturday at nightfall, goes into the bathroom and never comes out. Someone fired three shots at him.

“No one noticed what happened. The killer dragged the body into one of the toilets. He dipped her head into the cup and closed the door. It would have been hours before someone discovered the body and, perhaps, at first they would have guessed that he was a drunk” (p. 14).

Good start. There were four parishioners engaged in the game of brisca, and few staff. No shots were heard because the weapon must have had a silencer. Nobody cared about the lawyer Villalta, whom they didn’t know because the senatorial campaign hadn’t started yet. They saw him pass and forgot about him. And no one saw anyone else enter, either before or after. The investigation is conducted by the non-commissioned officer of the Carabineros, on civilian duty, Miguel Guevara, seconded to corporal Cristóbal Molina, who is his godson by marriage, but since the victim is a lawyer from Santiago, with close ties in government spheres, By order of the Minister of the Interior, a team of the PDI Homicide Brigade goes to Curicó. So there are two groups investigating the case, of which there is no record.

The investigative techniques used by the men of the PDI lead them to identify as the perpetrator of the murder a waiter of the restaurant, named Correa, who many years before had been tried in Concepción for armed robbery.

But his collaborators assure Sergeant Guevara that Correa, who has poor mental lucidity, is unable to commit a crime of these characteristics. And the marshal continues to look for new documents, despite the prosecutor urging him to take his time to find the accomplices of the culprit in order to close the case as soon as possible and satisfy the government’s request.

The true protagonist of the novel is Sergeant Guevara. He is not a great detective, nor super gifted, nor does he see under the asphalt. He’s just a cop made a career out of the South, dedicated to investigating petty crimes. But he has the virtues of him. Among them he knows people, he is persevering and does not let himself be underestimated; he tenaciously follows the objectives that he sets for himself and, step by step, he learns apparently minimal details, but which lead him on the right path.

So far we know of one dead politician, and the title tells us about three. Well, Guevara suspects that there may be other deaths and tries to prevent them. If we stick to the novel’s title, he won’t get it. But it is better to find out by following in the footsteps of this original researcher, different from the many so similar to each other. And also by his godson, the young corporal Molina, who is an exceptional marksman.

The novel is entertaining, it is well conducted, it arouses interest from the first pages; but it is more than entertainment, because it reveals curious personalities, not only in the world of police investigations, but also in politics. And Soto Díaz must be recognized for his knowledge of the beings that populate his pages, that he does not judge, he limits himself to presenting them and understands their motivations and movements, as a keen observer of the human condition.

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