A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Mexico City cop Filiberto Garcia is one of the most interesting characters you’ll meet in crime fiction. He’s not exactly the narrator of Rafael Bernal’s The Mongolian Conspiracy, but the novel spends most of it’s time wandering around his brain and mulling over his (for lack of a better term) personal philosophy. Meanwhile Filiberto shuffles his big haggard frame about Mexico City’s Chinatown—killing crooks, playing poker in opium dens, trying to pick-up a girl who’s too young for him, getting embroiled in international espionage, and foiling plots to assassinate President Johnson.
What’s so compelling about Filiberto, and the novel itself, is the complex, unexpected depth of his thoughts and actions. He’s singularly unfitted to the workaday world. Just getting up, dressed, and out the door is accompanied by a raging, vulgarity spewing mental tirade. Navigating a few simple social interactions are impossible without a constant internal rant that’s part fury, part neurosis, and altogether unpleasant. Outwardly at these moments he’s surprisingly meek and awkward, even a bit chaste.
It’s killing that calms him down. In one early scene he gets stabbed, recovers, cooly murders his assailant, murders an accomplice like batting a fly, hides the bodies, and manages to give us a level headed discussion of the finer points of hand to hand combat and some practical advice on sleuthing in general, and all in a matter of minutes. It’s what to do about the terrified girl he was with when it all happened that unnerves him again.
Besides Filiberto there’s a few other interesting folks, a unique plot that mixes spy stories with noir, and a fantastically rendered setting. It’s quick paced and full of action, too. But chances are you’re reaction to the novel will depend on how much you like or dislike the mercurial protaganist. The Mongolian Conspiracy is in our mystery section. Give the first chapter or so a try and see if gruff, foul-mouthed Filiberto can win you over.
Review by Matthew