AN EASY THING By Paco Ignacio Tabio (2002, Poisoned Pen Press)
An Easy Thing is the first book I’ve read by Mexican P.I. novelist Paco Tabio. Tabio’s investigator is Hector Belascororan Shayne, a former engineer and resident of Mexico’s capital city. He shares an office with a sewage expert, a plumber, and a chronically unemployed upholsterer. It’s 1977 and Hector has taken three cases at the same time: someone who believes the revolutionary general Emiliano Zapata is still alive and wants proof; an actress who needs to find out why her daughter is suicidal; and a manufacturing plant executive who wants to know the real reason an engineer in his employment was murdered.
Further complicating Hector’s life is the death of his mother, a former supporter of the Spanish Republic of the 1930’s. His relations with his family add to the back-drop of the novel. One entire chapter is devoted to the papers of his father, who’d died years ago, found in his mother’s personal effects.
A sample of the texture of Tabio’s writing:
“Time was running out, and he was starting to hate the city for the twelve-million-headed monster it was. Night invaded the office through the window. If sleeplessness and fatigue were the symbols for the first half of the story, now the labyrinth dominated the scene. And a labyrinth, by definition, contains a way out, but that was the hardest thing of all about the impasse the three mysteries had each run into. There was a way out, he knew it, he could almost feel it, almost smell it…And yet he could just as easily walk right past it and never know.”
Tabio is a committed socialist and makes no excuses for his leanings. The murder of the plant engineer he’s investigating is complicated by a wildcat strike at the factory. His sympathies are with the blue-collar workers, not the managers. It helps to have some understanding about Mexican politics. The novel refers to the “official unions” verses the independents. In Mexico, the government-sanctioned unions monopolized power up through the 1990’s.
A good novel. I’ll be looking for more of his books in the future.