Parkinson Solves Mystery of Daughter’s Death, Damn

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ELENA KNOWS
by Claudia Piñeiro
Translated by Frances Riddle

abortion on January 24, 2021 has become legal First time in Argentina since 1886. This landmark change was the result of decades of determined grassroots agitation by activists from various walks of life, including renowned author Claudia Piñeiro.

Hailed by some as the “Hitchcock of River Plate,” Piñeiro is a well-known crime writer in his native Argentina and around the world. Yet although her books are world bestsellers and four of her novels have been published in England, many Anglophone readers are unfamiliar with her work.

Piñeiro’s short and stylish novel “Elena Knows” is an ideal way to meet. On the surface, it’s a tight and concise mystery with a determined protagonist. But it’s also a stark commentary on mother-daughter relationships, the dishonor of bureaucracy, the burdens of babysitting, and the imposition of religious dogma on women. In a conservative and deeply Catholic society, a woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy becomes an important component of this story.

Elena, 63 and afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, serves as an unlikely detective. When the body of his devout daughter Rita is found hanging from the bell tower of the church he attended, authorities declare it a suicide. Defiant and vigilant, but weakened by an illness she speaks of in underrated and abusive terms, the heathen Elena refuses to accept that conclusion.

The structure of the book – its three chapters entitled “Morning”, “Noon” and “Afternoon” – is governed by the medication schedule Elena must follow; body. Elena is not the sweet old lady who tells her daughter’s boyfriend Roberto “go to hell” when he offers to help in her daughter’s sudden absence. His daughter’s priest, Father Juan, isn’t exactly mistaken about Elena’s flaws when she accuses Elena of the sins of “arrogance and arrogance, of thinking you know everything even if the facts show otherwise”, but Piñeiro makes sure you root for her. tough hero.

The author interrupts Elena’s quest in Buenos Aires—to ask a questionable favor from a woman named Isabel that could solve the mystery—and flashbacks to the controversial past Elena shares with Rita, whom she believes she knows thoroughly. Due to his illness, this simple act of wandering around a city is a challenge equivalent to Odysseus’s journey home. It also evokes Joyce’s “Ulysses”, opening in a single city over the course of a day.

Even if Piñeiro is unknown to some readers, he is only incompletely known, as Fiona Mackintosh points out in an epilogue. Her efforts as “a staunch supporter of various high-profile campaigns including the legalization of abortion in Argentina and the #NiUnaMenos movement against femicide” are often overshadowed by her reputation as the “Queen of Crime Fiction”. The publication of the page-turning and political “Elena Knows” offers a more complete picture of the author’s concerns and commitments.

What happens when Elena achieves her goal is brutal. “’Never’ is not a valid word for our species,” Isabel says. “There are a lot of things we thought we would never do, but we still do them when we put them in the situation.” With all that Elena knows and doesn’t know – her stubbornness, her blind spots – Piñeiro shows the stupidity that stems from misguided beliefs and the pain of incarnation in a world where forces beyond our control often control our bodies.

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