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The Killer's Tears    by Anne-Laure Bondoux order for
Killer's Tears
by Anne-Laure Bondoux
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Late in the story of The Killer's Tears, an old lumberman, Ricardo says 'I like metamorphosis ... Wood that becomes books. Winter that becomes spring. Grapes that become wine ... And the child who becomes a man.' That single word, metamorphosis, summarizes what this YA noir is all about. I was struck by the novel's unusual setting and a plot symmetry reminiscent of Holes - though this story lacks the light touch that brightened the darkness of Louis Sachar's celebrated tale.

It begins when a brutish killer, Angel Allegria, murders a man and woman who live in a small, rough house at 'nearly the end of the world, close to the southernmost tip of Chile, which resembles lace in the cold Pacific waters.' He spares their child, Paolo Poloverdo, to make him soup, and slowly, very slowly, the child's dependence on him opens the killer's soul to glimmers of light. Later, a stranger arrives at the door. Luis Secunda is the well educated son of a rich wine merchant. After circumstances, and the boy, save him from an early grave, Luis reads poetry to Angel and Paolo in the evenings, and rivalry grows between the men for the child's affection. When their old goats start to die, the trio make the long expedition to the Punta Arenas fair in search of a cow, sheep and supplies, leading to many new experiences for Paolo, a surprising betrayal, and flight to the forest where they meet the old man, Ricardo.

All three change as they journey - Angel is transformed by his connection to the boy into a man able to regret his past actions, Luis discovers that he's more like his own father than he had realized, and Paolo grows up, richer for what both men gave him, and satisfied to be 'the owner of something invaluable: a spot on this earth where he was truly at home, and where a person feels at one with the universe because of its roughness.'

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