The best crime novels set in Argentina

F.E. Beyer Author Of Buenos Aires Triad
By F.E. Beyer

Who am I?

At twenty-six I was living in Wuhan. I had been in China for a couple of years and was looking for a change. Not ready to go back home to New Zealand, I made my way across Europe, through the USA, and on to Argentina. Since that visit, I’ve followed Argentina's economic crises and scoured its newspapers for quirky crime stories. I started to send out true crime articles to various magazines. Eventually, I had enough material to write a novel. For years I’ve wanted to find a literary yet straightforward crime novel set in Argentina. The search goes on, but below are the best I’ve come across so far.


I wrote...

Buenos Aires Triad

By F.E. Beyer,

Book cover of Buenos Aires Triad

What is my book about?

A searing portrait of small-time crooks and immigrant gangs. When an armed robber shoots a British tourist in Buenos Aires, Lucas's life changes forever. A humble watch-seller moonlighting for the gang behind the robbery, Lucas picked the British woman as a target. He wants out of the gang but instead becomes more entangled and joins gang leader Gustavo in extortion work for the triads. In the Argentina of this well-researched noir, an enterprising type can store their loot with crooked nuns, or bet it on scorpion fights at illegal casinos.

The books I picked & why

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Like Flies from Afar

By K. Ferrari, Adrian Nathan West (translator),

Book cover of Like Flies from Afar

Why this book?

This is a concise noir with clear and simple prose. There is no metafiction, magical realism, or non-linear narrative to contend with. The protagonist, Mr. Machi, is a terrible person, almost psychopathic, a symbol of everything that is wrong in Argentina. The book is a critique of unbridled capitalism and its status symbols. To kick things off, Machi finds a dead body inside the boot of his beloved BMW and from there the action and the hilarity don’t stop. Told from the point of view of Machi, we have an uncomplicated antihero, a person completely without redeeming features. According to legend, the author still works as a subway station cleaner.

Like Flies from Afar

By K. Ferrari, Adrian Nathan West (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Like Flies from Afar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This novel should come not with blurbs but with a hazardous-material warning: There's bone and gristle here, be ready for that taste in your mouth you can't spit out. First words to last, it's strong stuff." —James Sallis, author of Drive

The first novel to appear in English by the "subway janitor by night, novelist by day," who began his writing career while an undocumented immigrant in the United States, Like Flies from Afar will demonstrate why K. Ferrari is already an award-winning star of international crime fiction. A hardboiled noir thriller, a whodunit, a black comedy, and a filthy…


The Tunnel

By Ernesto Sabato, Margaret Sayers Peden (translator),

Book cover of The Tunnel

Why this book?

The painter Castel meets Maria, the only person in the world capable of understanding him and his art. They start a relationship, but he becomes obsessive and wants her to live for him only. Castel describes his mind as a dark labyrinth in which occasional flashes of lightning illuminate dark corridors. The increasingly paranoid painter murders Maria and the novel takes the form of his prison-cell confession. Unable to understand why he committed the crime; he is at a loss how to justify himself. Sabato’s tortured protagonist is up there with Camus’ Meursault and Dostoevsky’s Underground Man. Femicide is a huge problem in Latin America, and Sabato was praised for being able to recreate the mind of a monster. However, I found Castel somewhat sympathetic.

The Tunnel

By Ernesto Sabato, Margaret Sayers Peden (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tunnel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the great short novels of the twentieth century—in an edition marking the 100th anniversary of the author's birth.

An unforgettable psychological novel of obsessive love, The Tunnel was championed by Albert Camus, Thomas Mann, and Graham Greene upon its publication in 1948 and went on to become an international bestseller. At its center is an artist named Juan Pablo Castel, who recounts from his prison cell his murder of a woman named María Iribarne. Obsessed from the moment he sees her examining one of his paintings, Castel fantasizes for months about how they might meet again. When he…

Money to Burn

By Ricardo Piglia, Amanda Hopkinson,

Book cover of Money to Burn

Why this book?

More about hiding out and the lead-up to the final shoot-out than the bank robbery at the start, this novel is based on a real case from the 1960s. After they rob a bank in the Province of Buenos Aires, Dorda and Brigone, escape with the money over the Rio de la Plata. They find a bolthole in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, a country much like Argentina culturally and historically, but with fewer hysterical tendencies. Not happy about this are the politicians and police officers involved in the robbery and anxious for their cut of the loot. Piglia does a good job of recreating Argentina in the 1960s. Despite some stylistic pretensions and his overwriting of the main characters, the author manages not to get in the way of the story.

Money to Burn

By Ricardo Piglia, Amanda Hopkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Money to Burn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on original reports and witness statements, Money to Burn tells the story of a gang of bandits who, fancying themselves as urban guerillas, raided a bank in downtown Buenos Aires. They escaped with millions of dollars in cash but six weeks later found their hideout surrounded by three hundred military police, journalists and TV cameras. The subsequent siege and its shocking outcome have become a Latin American legend.

The Honorary Consul

By Graham Greene,

Book cover of The Honorary Consul

Why this book?

An atheist doctor, a former priest with wavering faith, and a whiskey-sodden British consul in sweltering Northeastern Argentina. The Honorary Consul has all the elements of a classic Greene novel. The author in his autobiography ‘Ways of Escape’ said it was his favourite work. Over the river from the small town of Corrientes is Paraguay and the American backed dictator, General Stroessner. In a muddle up Charlie Fortnam gets kidnapped by Paraguayan rebels hoping for an exchange of prisoners; the American Ambassador was the real target. The British government isn’t eager to get involved, Charlie is a sixty-year-old ‘honorary’ consul and alcoholic. Worse still he has recently married Clara, a young prostitute – not a becoming image at all. 

The Honorary Consul

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Honorary Consul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the alcoholic British 'Honorary Consul' in an Argentinian town is kidnapped by a band of revolutionaries, a local doctor negotiates with his captors and with the authorities for the man's release, but the corruption of both soon comes to the fore. From the author of OUR MAN IN HAVANA and THE HUMAN FACTOR.

Death Going Down

By María Angélica Bosco, Lucy Greaves (translator),

Book cover of Death Going Down

Why this book?

An Agatha Christie-style mystery set in Buenos Aires. At two in the morning, Pancho Soler returns drunk to his apartment building on Santa Fe Avenue. He presses the button for the lift, and it arrives with a surprise inside: a beautiful blonde woman, sitting upright, but dead. Many of the suspects who live in the building are recent immigrants from Europe and, as the novel is set in the 1950s, their memories and secrets from WW2 are still fresh. Boris, a Bulgarian chemist who worked for the Nazis, is the most entertaining of the lot. There are the usual red herrings and revelations in the search for the murderer. The young Argentinian detective is a little flat by Christie's standards, but this is a satisfying whodunnit.   

Death Going Down

By María Angélica Bosco, Lucy Greaves (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death Going Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frida Eidinger is young, beautiful and lying dead in the lift of a luxury Buenos Aires apartment block.

It looks like suicide, and yet none of the building's residents can be trusted; the man who discovered her is a womanising drunk; her husband is behaving strangely; and upstairs, a photographer and his sister appear to be hiding something sinister. When Inspector Ericourt and his colleague Blasi are set on the trail of some missing photographs, a disturbing secret past begins to unravel...

One of Argentina's greatest detective stories, Death Going Down is a postwar tale of survival and
extortion, obsession…

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