READ THE WORLD – Costa Rica: Cadence of the Moon by Oscar Núñez Olivas

Translated by Joanna Griffin.

A series of murders committed with dreadful sadism by a psychopathic killer shakes Costa Rica like one of the earth tremors that periodically bedevil Central America. The police and press compete to uncover the murderer’s grisly trail – leading to a passionate encounter between a detective and an astonishing female reporter whose charms are her most powerful investigative tool.

Cadence of the Moon is a multiple POV story with it sometimes jumping from one point of view to another in the same chapter – though at least there’s line breaks to give you a hint something’s different. It’s mostly in third person a part from one point of view that’s in first person. I don’t know if I missed something early on but I didn’t figure out what character the first-person narrative was from until near the very end of the book where it revealed it. There may have been clues I missed before but I was so unsure that for a while I thought they might be the killer as they definitely seemed somewhat obsessive as the killer had been profiled.

Gustavo is the main detective and he is almost a reluctant detective. He’s smart and good at solving puzzles but he didn’t join the police because he wanted to but rather because he needed a job with a decent pension. He doesn’t quite fit in with some of the other detective and he clashes with his boss who has political aspirations.

As things slowly unravel and the police and the press follow different threads of the investigation it becomes clear there’s layers to this crime. The murders are gruesome but there’s also talk of secret societies, political intrigue and police corruption. Cadence of the Moon can be frustrating for the reader and for some of the characters as they are never given enough resources to make an impact on this case, and that might be deliberate.

Something I had trouble with was how women are described in this book, especially the journalist Maricruz Miranda. Not to generalise but it did feel very typical of a male author, especially a male author in the crime/thriller genre. Just the way her appearance and attitude were described in an often sexual way made me feel uncomfortable, like she was an object rather than a person. It’s something that did put me off Cadence of the Moon for a while and after reading the first 50 or so pages I put it down and didn’t pick it up again for over a month.

It was not just Maricruz, all the women are described by their appearances and a few male characters are quick to fall into bed with them or lust over characters who have no intentions of being with them. It’s as if all the women’s main purpose was to be a subject of male attention and then be a journalist, judge or whatever second.

I found Cadence of the Moon a slow read but it ended up being an interesting one. It’s based off the true story of Costa Rica’s first serial killer which is a compelling premise and how characters who were driven by moral and professional ethics were stumped by the corruption and lies of the real world presented a decent conflict of interests.

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