. . . but they have no interest in real combat, when the great masters struggle against that something, that something that terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench.

10 April 2010

Juan de Dios Martínez

I wrote earlier about my fondness for Lalo Cura. The second half of The Part About the Crimes also presents a sympathetic picture of the humanity of Juan de Dios Martínez.

He concludes that the death of the twenty-eight-year-old schoolteacher, Perla Beatriz Ochoterena, by hanging was a suicide at page 517. He discusses this with Elvira Campos at page 518 and 519, telling Elvira some of the titles in Perla’s collection of books. Elvira ultimately launches into this strange monologue:

What was it the teacher couldn’t stand anymore? asked Elvira Campos. Life in Santa Teresa? The deaths in Santa Teresa? The underage girls who died without anyone doing anything to stop it? Would that be enough to drive a young woman to suicide? Would a college student have killed herself for that? Would a peasant girl who’d had to work hard to become a teacher have killed herself for that? One in a thousand? One in one hundred thousand? One in a million? One in one hundred million Mexicans?

I say “strange” because I have no idea what Elvira’s own answers to those questions are. Is she mocking Juan de Dios’s conclusion that the young woman committed suicide? I do not know what our answers ought to be to her questions either. One thing is for sure. She is not as fond of Mexicans and Mexico as I am.

At page 534 he is clearly and profoundly troubled by the murder of thirteen-year-old Herminia Noriega. She had four heart attacks during her torture, and the final heart attack was listed as the cause of her death.

One’s heart goes out to him for being so deeply in love with Elvira Campos, a distant woman to say the least. At that same page he confides in her about “what was happening to him.” Instead of providing anything constructive to him, this psychiatrist instead regales him with her fantasy about running off to Paris for plastic surgery and a “new life without Mexicans or Mexico or Mexican patients.” Solipsism for sure there.

Later at page 600 Juan de Dios can only rest his head on the steering wheel and try to cry after the investigation of the shooting of Angélica Ochoa by her husband, who started by shooting her in the thighs and then worked up. (Perhaps the fact is that he is upset with himself for falling in love with that narcissist.)

Lalo Cura is an appealing character to me because he alone shows some passing interest in vigorously investigating the crimes. Juan de Dios Martínez is appealing to me because he has a heart.


  1. Your assessment of these two characters accords with my own.

  2. Thanks, but do not hesitate to challenge me when you think I am off track. As Maria says, this books "needs discussin'."

    I may have been too hard on Elvira. See infinitezombies comment to the entry on her at March 24 below. She is dealing with her own demons and does not have a lot of space to deal with the demons of others. Ironic that she is a psychiatrist.