Book Review: The Silver Gaucho, by Jackie Ballantyne

Available now in bookstores nationwide. 

Jackie Ballantyne worked in advertising in Australia and then began writing fiction. Shecv_the_silver_gaucho has won awards and commendations for her short fiction. Her first novel, How to Stop a Heart from Beating was published in NZ in 2007. She currently lives in Dunedin.

This book opens with the breaking news “El Gaucho de la Plata esta muerto” –“The Silver Gaucho is dead” being flashed on all the television screens in Argentina. Luis Felipe Alessandro Mabon who played The Silver Gaucho in a popular television series has been killed in a traffic accident on 9 November 2001.

The story then flips back to 1998, to the events preceding Luis Mabon being killed. Lachlyn Steele, known to all as Lockie, is in Argentina doing research for a travel book on Argentina. Her books are called “snapshots”. When she is not travelling, Lockie lives in Dunedin, New Zealand. She is introduced to Luis Mabon by her tour guide Mijale. They arrive at his home Finca Carliotos – a place with a rich history. The house now serves as a guest house. It was a former trading house where many deals were executed, cocoa in exchange for grain, naimlas for tobacco, and parcels of land for salt. Her first impression of Luis was of a cocky self-assured man who liked being the centre of attention. Lockie summed him up as “smarmy”.

Leaving Luis, Lockie travels by a circuitous route, led by Mijale which finishes at Estaneia Pequenos Milagros, Luis Mabron’s family home where they train horses. A suite has been prepared for Lockie, with Luis expecting her to stay. What follows is the reason for her apparent “hijacking” by Luis. He wants her to help his family. His younger brother Javier has gone missing. Lockie is not sure how she can help until she is told that he flew to New Zealand. The family have had one letter sent to their father to say Luis’ brother is not coming home, and then nothing for some time before he sent a postcard with a few short sentences in Spanish, telling them nothing. They are naturally worried and want Lockie to find out where he is and why he has chosen to disappear. They want to pay for her services to find him. There are secrets within the family that they won’t discuss with Lockie. Lockie returns to her home in Dunedin.

The ensuing story is one of friendships in unexpected places, adventures and romance and is well written. I was very impressed the way this book is set out and the obvious research that had taken place by the author.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Silver Gaucho
by Jackie Ballantyne
Published by The Doby Press
ISBN 9780473275259