Our hero and heroine find the dismembered body of a young woman, half placed by the Memorial to the Graf Spee, a German Cruiser scuttled in Montevideo (Uruguay) Harbor in 1939, with the other half of the body next to a nearby Memorial to the Jews who died in the Holocaust. Roger and Suzanne are drawn into the investigation of the murder and are soon driving through Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay in a fast paced mystery that has plenty of action, atmosphere, and sense of place.
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Parts of a dismembered corpse are found on a rocky stretch of beach in Montevideo, Uruguay, apportioned equally between the Memorial to a German cruiser sunk in World War II and the Memorial to Jews killed in the Holocaust. Because of the murder victim's strategic location shared between two antithetical monuments, the Uruguayan press names her “The Ambivalent Corpse”. Private detective Roger Bowman and his girlfriend, scientist Suzanne Foster, find themselves traveling through Uruguay, Southwest Brazil, and parts of Paraguay and Argentina to help solve the case. This fast paced mystery has plenty of action, atmosphere, and sense of place. While the novel is basically a hard-bitten mystery story, it bends the genre slightly so that it should also appeal to readers interested in travel, romance, and South American food and wine.
"Our run lasted only as far as the park with the lake on our left and the Maritime Museum, the Graf Spee Memorial, and the Holocaust Memorial on our right. Beyond the Museum was the Rio de la Plata. Far out of sight across the river was Argentina. Suzanne and I were the only live people visible anywhere in this area. It was impossible not to see the pieces of dead body lying by the two Memorials so we stopped and checked things out. Pieces of body were apportioned half and half between the Graf Spee Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial. The victim was a young woman who had almost certainly been murdered.
The Graf Spee Memorial features a six-inch cannon salvaged from the wreck and an explanatory plaque. The body parts were carefully placed around the concrete base the cannon is mounted on. Beside the Memorial was almost half of a dismembered corpse: a jean-covered leg beside an arm covered by the sleeve of a sweater, and the top half of the torso minus its head. The half-body was dressed in what was left of a turtle-necked sweater and obviously had belonged to a woman. She looked to have been young and in pretty good shape. There was very little blood visible, just the body parts.
The Holocaust Memorial is a large inscribed chunk of rock sculpture pulled away from a 350-foot long wall. The rest of the body parts were placed symmetrically around the base of the plaques. Next to the Memorial was the remaining half of the dismembered corpse: the other jean clad leg, the other sleeved arm, and the bottom half of the torso from the waist down to the groin area. This half-body was dressed in what remained of her jeans and matched the top half in gender and size. The parts would fit together like the pieces of a life-sized jigsaw puzzle.
Lying precisely between the two halves of the corpse was its head. The victim had long dark hair and was mid-20s to 30-ish and good looking. From the overkill brutality it seemed that the murderer was really pissed off at her.
Despite my years as a homicide detective in Los Angeles and the many dozens of murder scenes I've investigated the brutality and the cold-blooded theatricality of this murder scene caused my stomach to lurch. Years of training kicked in to make me seem a lot calmer than I actually was."