Written by David Enrique Spellman – Written as the casebook of Juan Manuel Perez, Far South follows his detailed investigation into the disappearance of enigmatic theatre director, Gerardo Fischer. But what makes it so new and experimental is that at certain points the story points you to websites which enable you to watch short films, listen to audio recordings and analyse other documents related to Gerardo, and potentially, his disappearance. In effect, you become the detective.
Juan Manuel is an ex-policeman who has been contacted by Ana and Sara, two members of the Tenemos Artists’ Colony located in the hills outside Cuidad Azul, Argentina. He’s asked to find the group’s director, Gerardo. On first glance, it sounds like a straight-forward missing person. There are no signs of violence at the alleged crime scene, the door to the victim’s home has been left open, his car is still in the community’s car park and the only thing missing, apart from him, is his laptop. It’s not until Juan Manuel starts digging that we realise the investigation is far from simple and is opening a very large can of worms, filled with corrupt policemen, angry mafiosi, Nazi war criminals, political activism and an extremely dodgy adoption agency.
How all of this has any bearing on our missing theatre director is left for Juan Manuel to investigate and the reader can draw their own conclusions. However you’re left with little doubt that there’s more to Gerardo than meets the eye. As Juan Manuel questions members of the community, you build up a picture of a man who likes to maintain an aura of mystery, has an ability to draw people to him and, it seems, has been around during some pivotal political moments. However the extent of his involvement in them is never clarified, just the fact that he’s managed to upset some highly influential individuals. One of the many questions you find yourself asking is: ‘Who is Gerardo Fischer?’
Making this book a more interactive experience worked very well. You can access the links as and when it’s convenient. If you aren’t near a computer while reading you can catch up later. Think of it as a cold case with the reader as the new investigator, being presented with the evidence Juan Manuel has gathered during his inquiry. Personally, I found the links added an extra sense of realism to the mystery. Being able to see and hear the characters made them feel more like actual people, pulling you deeper into the story and, at times, almost blurring the lines between fiction and reality.
There are three specific links within the book that take you to an introduction by Clara Luz Weissman, Ana’s witness statement, and a group of postcards found in Gerardo’s house, all of which have been posted on YouTube and are also available on the specially created website for the Far South Project. This site also contains more audio, video and other material for you to analyse and try to pick out what might be relevant, whilst building up a picture of our missing person. Meanwhile, another website is specifically related to the Real & Present Theatre Group, which helps to further heighten the realism of the story.
This is a book with bags of appeal, especially if you enjoy flexing your little grey cells. It’s totally absorbing and will keep you hooked even after you’ve finished reading it. I absolutely loved Far South. It’s such an unusual concept that it’s really rather mind-blowing. This is an intense book because the reader has so much to take in. It grabs you early on and it still has a hold on you even when you’ve finished reading it.
CFL Rating: 5 stars