International Association of Crime Writers, North American Branch


by J. Madison Davis

The Man Who Loved Dogs, by Leonardo Padura. Translated from the Spanish by Anna Kushner. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.

History is a mystery and never ceases to be one, as we rarely know exactly what happened and almost never exactly why. Nonetheless, clever novelists create convincing clarity that often seems more real than what we actually know.

Padura’s remarkable novel takes the murder of Leon Trotsky and develops it into the kind of novel that used to be more of a staple of literature, the kind of novel that the words “epic sweep” were intended to describe.

Nearly six hundred pages, it takes the reader on a journey that is more psychologically and character driven than event driven, as, after all, if we know who Trotsky was, we are also likely to know he won’t come out of Mexico alive.

Some big books skip from event to event like a stone over a shallow pond. The great ones, and this may well qualify, slide steadily deeper. The character of the assassin is rendered, if not sympathetic, at least comprehensible—something rarely done in conventional thrillers. A finalist for the Book of the Year award in Spain, the novel was translated over a two-year period by Anna Kushner, earning a nomination for the PEN translation prize.

(Editor’s Note: Padura is a member of our Cuban branch. With this issue of Border Patrol we are pleased to introduce J. Madison Davis, who has ageed to serve as our literature-in-translation reviewer, replacing Doris Cassiday who died last year. She did an excellent job for many years, and we know that Jim will continue the tradition. In addition to being president of IACW’s North American branch and an author, he is a Contributing Editor at World Literature Today.)

Reprinted from Border Patrol, IACW/NA newsletter
© 2015, used by permission