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William Bayer

CITY OF KNIVES is a novel of intersecting destinies in which stories involving four principal characters crisscross and finally intersect:

MARTA ABECASIS is a homicide inspector with the Argentine Federal Police. When the bizarrely bound and positioned body of a prostitute is found by the wall of Recoleta Cemetery, Marta, known as La Incorrupta (“The Incorruptible One”) on account of her work on a famous rape-and-murder case, is assigned to investigate. As her investigation unfolds she uncovers a political conspiracy involving powerful people who will stop at nothing to obstruct her.

BETH BROWDER, a young American romance languages teacher and self-styled “tango-maniac,” takes her sabbatical in Buenos Aires to search for a one-night-stand lover she met at a San Francisco dance hall, and to immerse herself in the culture of Argentine tango. Her immersion takes her into off-the-tourist-track  tango clubs, and then into a life of obsessive dancing. Soon after her arrival she is drawn into a frightening demi-monde that pushes her to the brink of madness.

DR. TOMÁS HUDSON is a middle-aged psychoanalyst in a city obsessed with psychoanalysis, where an entire district is commonly referred to as “Villa Freud.” His specialty is the treatment of the damaged grown children of los desaparecidos (“the disappeared ones”) who were adopted by the very military families that were responsible for their parents torture and execution during the time of el Proceso, the military dictatorship. One evening, returning home from a successful lecture, he finds a message from an extortionist offering to sell him the name of the person who, years before, was responsible for the disappearance and murder of his own wife. Should he pay for this information or reject the offer? This quandary pushes him and his old training analyst toward a psychological crisis.

HANK BARNES, a specialist dealer in Third Reich militaria, is hired by an anonymous stranger to travel to Buenos Aires to retrieve a much-coveted and long-lost jewel-encrusted dagger that once belonged to Nazi leader, Hermann Goering. Pursuing this quest, Hank realizes he is being manipulated by the intelligence service of a foreign government.

Other characters include: a corrupt priest who is chief of staff in the office of the Argentine Minister of Finance; a young motor-cycle riding investigative journalist who will risk everything for a great scoop; an immensely wealthy incestuous brother-sister who troll the night streets of the city for rough-trade lovers; and an anti-Semitic right-wing former military leader in prison for organizing a failed coup d’etat.

But perhaps the most important character of all is the city itself, Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America” – city of the writers Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar, rich and cruel, haunted by its violent past, architecturally gorgeous, now a city of decay, intrigue and danger. . . a CITY OF KNIVES.



CITY OF KNIVES was first published in a French language edition (La Ville Des Couteaux) by Payot & Rivages, Paris. Here are excerpts from the French reviews, all of which were excellent:

QUOTIDIEM NATIONAL: “A breath taking plunge into the plagues and wounds of a capital city haunted by ‘disappeared ones’ and dictatorship, rot and false appearances. Saturated by the tango, this is a captivating novel.”

LIBERATION: “Intrigue reminiscent of the thrillers of John le Carré. Superb!”

LE PARISIEN: “My heart was captured by William Bayer’s CITY OF KNIVES. A series of murders that recall the torture methods of the dictatorship, and, in parallel, a young American woman passionate about tango. The author captures the essence of South America.”

EXPRESSION ACTIVE: “A profound immersion in Argentina revealed by the author…a majestic work, masterly and passionate.”

Film director, CLAUDE CHABROL (in one of his last filmed interviews conducted by François Guerif):  CITY OF KNIVES is a great noir novel.”



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