Argentina Noir

New Millennium Crime Novels in Buenos Aires

By Cynthia Schmidt-Cruz

Subjects: Latin American Studies, Literary Criticism, Women's Studies, Literary History, Social Problems
Series: SUNY series in Latin American and Iberian Thought and Culture
Hardcover : 9781438473031, 338 pages, March 2019
Paperback : 9781438473048, 338 pages, January 2020

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Table of contents


Introduction: Argentina Noir
From the Whodunit to the Novela Negra: The Poetics of Crime Fiction
Development of the Genre in Argentina
An Overview of Current Practitioners in Argentina
Toward a Characterization of and Approach to the Genre in Argentina

1. Combatting Organized Crime and Institutional Complicity, with a Sentimental Subtext
Trafficking Enabled by Institutional Corruption
A Sentimental Cop Goes Up against Human Traffickers: Los hombres te han hecho mal by Ernesto Mallo
The Foul Breezes of Buenos Aires: Ciudad Santa by Guillermo Orsi

2. The President and All His Men: Watchdog Journalists Tackle Corruption during the Menem Presidency
The Menem Presidency and the Neoliberal Era
“Novelas menemistas”: El vuelo de la reina by Tomás Eloy Martínez and El muerto indiscreto by Rubén Correa

3. Terrorist Attacks on Jewish Buenos Aires and the Mysterious Death of Alberto Nisman
The Hapless Investigation of the Attack on the AMIA
A Sexy Journalist Cracks an Anti-Semitic Plot: Asalto al paraíso by Marcos Aguinis
The Rogue Spy and the Demise of the Special Prosecutor: El fiscal by R. S. Pratt

4. Trouble in the Country Club, or “Los Nuevos Ricos También Lloran”
The Gated Community as Emblematic of the Neoliberal Era
Disintegration of Family Ties: Retrato de familia con muerta by Raúl Argemí
The High Cost of Keeping Up Appearances: Las viudas de los jueves by Claudia Piñeiro
Regendering the Genre: Betibú by Claudia Piñeiro
The Gated Community: A Disturbing Message

5. The “Other Side”: The Urban Poor and the Crime Novel
No Longer a Middle-Class Society
Collateral Damage of Consumer Society: Puerto Apache by Juan Martini
Fatal Attraction: La fragilidad de los cuerpos by Sergio Olguín

Conclusion: Social Collapse and Human Connections
Territorialization and Transformation
The Sentimental Subtext

Works Cited

An engaging and insightful guide to Argentine crime fiction since 2000.


Argentina Noir offers a guide to Argentine crime fiction, with a focus on works published since the year 2000. It argues that the novela negra, or crime novel, has become the favored genre for many writers to address the social malaise brought about by changes linked to globalization and market-driven economic policies. Cynthia Schmidt-Cruz presents close readings and original interpretations of eleven novels, all set in or around Buenos Aires, and explores the ways these texts adapt major motifs, figures, and literary techniques in Hispanic crime fiction in order to give voice to wide-ranging social critiques. Schmidt-Cruz addresses such topics as organized crime and institutional complicity, corruption during the presidency of Carlos Menem (1989–1999), terrorist attacks on Jewish institutions in Buenos Aires and the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman, and the winners and the losers of neoliberal structural changes. With a solid underpinning in sociological studies and criticism of the genre and its historical context, Argentina Noir reveals how these novels are renovating the genre to engage pressing issues confronting not only Argentina but also countries throughout Latin America and around the globe.

Cynthia Schmidt-Cruz is Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Director of the Center for Global and Area Studies at the University of Delaware. Her previous books include Mothers, Lovers, and Others: The Short Stories of Julio Cortázar, also published by SUNY Press.


"Schmidt-Cruz's work represents a significant contribution to the field … this is an accomplished study that will be essential reading for scholars of Argentine crime fiction, but that should also hold appeal for those interested in understanding contemporary Argentina, or indeed anyone curious about the power of popular narratives to help illuminate the social and political phenomena of the age. " — Bulletin of Spanish Studies

"This is a very significant contribution to the field. It is a full and illustrative, as well as authoritative, guide to crime fiction and the novela negra in Argentina in the twenty-first century, with a particular focus on the literature's social and political thematics. " — Philip Swanson, author of The New Novel in Latin America: Politics and Popular Culture after the Boom