The Case Of Lisandra P.: A Novel by Helene GremillonThe Case Of Lisandra P.: A Novel by Helene Gremillon

The Case Of Lisandra P.: A Novel

byHelene GremillonTranslated byAlison Anderson

Paperback | January 12, 2016

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“A cunningly plotted tale that is by turns cerebral, suspenseful—and ultimately shocking.” –Publishers Weekly

A gripping psychological thriller for fans of The Girl on the Train and The Silent Wife about a wife’s secrets, a husband accused of murder, and a marriage gone terribly wrong

Buenos Aires, 1987. When a beautiful young woman named Lisandra is found dead at the foot of a six-story building, her husband, a psychoanalyst, is immediately arrested for her murder. Convinced of Vittorio’s innocence, one of his patients, Eva Maria, is drawn into the investigation seemingly by chance. As she combs through secret recordings of Vittorio’s therapy sessions in search of the killer—could it be the powerful government figure? the jealous woman? the musician who’s lost his reason to live?—Eva Maria must confront her most painful memories, and some of the darkest moments in Argentinian history.

In breathless prose that captures the desperate spinning of a frantic mind, Hélène Grémillon blurs the lines of past and present, personal and political, reality and paranoia in this daring and compulsively readable novel.
Hélène Grémillon was born in France in 1977. After obtaining degrees in literature and history, she worked as a journalist at the French newspaper Le Figaro before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Paris with her partner, singer and songwriter Julien Clerc, and their child. Alison Anderson is an American writer and translator b...
Title:The Case Of Lisandra P.: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.76 inPublished:January 12, 2016Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:014312658X

ISBN - 13:9780143126584

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About the AuthorTitle PageCopyrightDedicationEpigraphNoteThe Case of Lisandra P. ALICIAFELIPEMIGUELAcknowledgmentsLisandra came into the room, her eyes red, puffy with tears. She walked unsteadily, and all she said was, “He doesn’t love me anymore.” She said it over and over, relentlessly, as if her brain had stopped working, as if her mouth could not utter anything else—“He doesn’t love me anymore.” “Lisandra, I don’t love you anymore,” she said suddenly, as if his words were coming from her own mouth; and thus having learned her first name, I seized the opportunity to interrupt her outburst:“Lisandra. Who doesn’t love you anymore?”Those were the first words I said to her, because “stop crying” and “tell me about it” were not commands she would have heard, and she stopped short, as if she had only just now seen me, and yet she didn’t move. She stayed there with her back slumped in sorrow, her head sunk between her shoulders, her hands wedged between her crossed legs, but as my words had had the desired effect, I ventured to repeat them, more gently, looking into her eyes, and this time, her eyes were looking at me.“Who doesn’t love you anymore?”I had been afraid that my words might have the opposite effect, plunging her back into the torpor of her tears, but this was not the case. Lisandra nodded her head and murmured, “Ignacio. Ignacio doesn’t love me anymore.” She had stopped crying. She didn’t apologize, and generally everyone apologizes after they’ve been crying, or even while they’re crying, a remnant of pride in spite of sorrow, but she had no such pride, or no longer had any. Now she was somewhat calmer, in her blue sweater. She spoke to me about him, this man who no longer loved her. That was how I met Lisandra; it was seven years ago.Lisandra was beautiful, strangely beautiful, and her beauty had nothing to do with the color of her eyes or her hair, nothing to do with her skin. She had such a feminine shape but a childlike beauty, and I knew immediately through her gaze, her gestures, her expressions so hounded by sorrow, that the child in this woman was not dead. I was stunned that she could love like this. She loved to love. I listened to her. He seemed so wonderful, this man she loved so much.“Stop talking about him, Lisandra. Tell me about yourself.”I knew my words might rush her. I had hesitated at first, but I couldn’t help myself; already stupidly jealous, I could not stand to hear her talk about that man. She replied that she had nothing to say about herself, and before I could find any words to fill the silence and undo the damage I had just caused, she got to her feet, asked me where the restroom was, and didn’t come back, either that day or in the days that followed.Every evening I take a half hour break, half an hour of solitude to emerge from the tunnel of dissatisfaction, frustration, and despair into which everything I’ve heard during the day has plunged me. Forgive me for telling you this, Eva Maria, I shouldn’t, but we’ve gotten this far, I may as well share what goes on behind the scenes. I pour myself a glass of brandy and I wait to feel a very slight numbing, which, paradoxically, restores me to my reality, the reality of my life. I’ve always done this, but on that particular day, that half hour lasted all evening. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, about Lisandra, her eyes terrified by the reality of the love she had just lost. I’ve often seen people devastated by their sorrow in love, but I have never sensed such a degree of suffering in any of them, and it wasn’t some sort of romantic or habitual despair, or posturing, but a despair that was truly part of her character, organic and visceral. There are individuals who will never know such despair, those feelings we all call by the same name, which we can all experience, and know. They vary in intensity with each individual, but because we want them to be universal, all too often we forget this, but my profession reminds me of it every day: suffering does not mean the same thing to everyone.I tried to determine how old Lisandra was: twenty-five, perhaps, with her brown hair and her dark rosy skin—and her eyes? I hadn’t even noticed the color of her eyes, because the only thing I had seen was her suffering, and her eyes, red and puffy. She had not even reached for the box of tissues I had placed between us, but nervously wiped her eyes and nose with the sleeve of her blue sweater; yes, I remembered the color of her sweater. The thought that I might never see her again made me pour a second glass of brandy, then a third, and then I went out to throw a different light on things, but the light was no different. All it takes is a thousandth of a second for an obsession to take hold. Time has nothing to do with it. I went down the street knowing full well that I hadn’t a clue where I was headed, and not realizing that I had just set out to look for her . . .There is a knock at the door. Eva Maria is sitting at her desk. She doesn’t hear it. She is lost in reflection.. . . Lisandra. I was overwhelmed by her sudden disappearance; I couldn’t sleep; I cursed myself for causing her to flee. This had never happened before and yes, God knows how many individuals I’ve seen traipsing through my office, but no one has ever given me the slip like that. Of course there have been patients who don’t come back to their second appointment, but to disappear like that, in the middle of a session, never; her resistance was immediate. I hunted for a clue in those few moments I had spent with her, a clue that might enable me to find her again; her first name, her blue sweater, that wouldn’t get me far—I knew nothing about her. I mentally reviewed the image she had left behind, an image so precise it might have been etched with a painstaking scalpel: Lisandra, sprawled sideways on the sofa, drying first one eye then the other with the sleeve of her blue sweater. My selective, obsessive memory enabled me to recall the elements I had not grasped at the time, hanging as I was on her words and on her face. She was wearing slacks made of a light fabric, a sort of black cotton, and—how had I failed to notice at the time?—a fine pair of shoes, also black, astonishingly elegant in comparison to the rest of her outfit, high heels with a strap, and beneath her feet there were white spots on the carpet. I had to get to the bottom of it, and while I hesitated to congratulate myself too soon, I did not hesitate to go around to all the tango places and milongas in the vicinity—she must have just come from one of them, and it couldn’t be far, otherwise the talcum powder would have had time to disappear altogether. So she still had the courage to dance despite her sorrow. This reassured me, but what reassured me more than anything was that now I had a lead, and I could find her again.Don’t look at me like that, Eva Maria; I know what you’re thinking, yes, yes, I can see it in your eyes, don’t pretend otherwise. You’re angry with me, I know you, but let me make one thing clear: the reason Lisandra’s resistance was immediate was because I did everything I could to make it immediate, and when I want to reassure myself, I like to think that if I rushed her on the day we met I did it unconsciously, to make her leave, so I’d prevent us from starting to behave in that particular way that would have made any other form of intimacy impossible; you know there are ethical reasons. So let me make one thing clear, when I went looking for Lisandra, I was looking for a woman, not a patient, I insist on that fact, and I never felt guilty of any lapse with regard to my profession. I had found Lisandra weeping outside the door to my office, she had seen the sign as she walked down the street, she had no appointment, we didn’t finish the session, no money changed hands, but it was the most shattering moment of my life. Don’t you believe in that instant of immediate recognition between two individuals, Eva Maria? That’s strange, I would have sworn that you did.I wondered what Lisandra would look like as a dancer, with her long brown hair pulled up into a chignon. Would I recognize her from behind? No, I wouldn’t recognize her. I had not yet acquired the familiarity that enables one to recognize someone from behind, so I waited for the dancing figures to turn around, or let me see their profiles, and then I asked, “Do you know a certain Lisandra?” “Is Lisandra here?” “Does Lisandra come here to dance?”I might not have recognized her, the young woman who had sat across from me three days earlier, her head scrunched down between her shoulders—that young woman had disappeared behind this arched, vivid body, moving freely, with authority, and above all liberated. This was no longer the same young woman moving there before me: she had the fine neck of a dancer, all her wariness and hesitancy had disappeared, and even her sorrow—she was so sure of herself when she danced, the extreme freedom she radiated was striking in comparison to the brutal, lovesick self-abasement she had shown me, the servitude I had seen her struggling with a few days earlier. She wasn’t dancing for the others, she was dancing only for herself. She was the “soul of the tango.” I know that’s a cheesy thing to say, but that’s what I thought about Lisandra the moment she turned to face me.“What are you doing here?”Lisandra always believed it was “chance” that caused us to meet again, and she found this so “meaningful” that I never put her right; she wouldn’t have found it so “marvelous” if she had known it was the product of my own eagerness. That’s the way she was, Lisandra, she preferred the surreal to reality, and every time she remarked on how marvelous it was that we had met again, I let her say it. She never questioned what fortune had sent her way; fortune acted as a guide, as a guarantee, the sad emblem of those who lack self-confidence. We had dinner together and then we saw each other again and then we decided to be together, and very quickly, on December 8, 1980, we got married. I loved that woman, I would never have thought anyone could wish to harm her; she was not cut out to be involved in anything sordid. Tragic, perhaps, but not sordid. She was so fragile, Lisandra. I could never have imagined I might speak of her one day in the past tense . . .Again someone knocks on the door. Eva Maria doesn’t react. The door opens. Estéban is standing on the threshold.“I’m sorry to bother you, Mama, are you having supper?”Eva Maria doesn’t turn around.“I’m not hungry.”“What are you doing?”“Nothing. I’m working.”“You’re bringing work home now?”Eva Maria doesn’t answer. Estéban doesn’t move.“Well, okay then, shall I have dinner?”“Yes, go ahead.”Estéban runs his fingers through his hair. He leaves the room. He closes the door behind him. Eva Maria takes a sip of wine.. . . When I came home the door to the apartment was unlocked. I immediately noticed a terrible draft; very loud music was coming from the living room; everything was in a mess as if there had been a fight; chairs were overturned; the lamp was on the floor; it was so cold; the window was wide open. I knew at once something had happened. Lisandra easily got cold; even on terribly hot nights she would always sleep with a sheet over her, she said that only the weight of the material enabled her to fall asleep, as did my body, pressed up against her; she couldn’t bear to feel the air on her skin, even when there was no breeze. I closed the window and looked for her everywhere. I ran into the kitchen, into the bedroom, the bathroom, and it was only then, when I saw she was nowhere to be found, that I retraced my steps and understood, was afraid that I had understood. I stepped over the shattered vase on the floor, with a puddle of water all around it, and at that moment I heard a shrill cry in the street, and I opened the window again. I didn’t dare lean out. Lisandra, her body down there, she was lying on the ground, on her back, her head to one side. I couldn’t see whether she was still breathing. Two young lovers were leaning over her, they were holding hands; I screamed to them not to touch her, not to move her, and I ran down the stairs. The two young lovers had stepped back, they weren’t holding hands anymore—had they touched her? Her forehead was icy; a trickle of blood was coming from her mouth; her eyes were open, her eyelids swollen. I didn’t kill Lisandra, I could never have killed her, you have to believe me, Eva Maria.Eva Maria is curled up in her chair. She pours another glass of wine. Vittorio told her everything. Down to the smallest detail. He’d had no time to react. The police had come very quickly—someone must have called them, surely a neighbor; every light in the building was on. He’d gone back up into the apartment with the policemen and they’d asked him to go with them to the station while others stayed behind to seal off the crime scene and begin their investigation. They wanted to get his deposition; they had to act quickly because it was often the speed of an investigation that enabled them to find the murderer; it wouldn’t take long: that’s what they told him. He should have had the presence of mind to ask for a lawyer, but you don’t go from a state of terrible shock to extreme vigilance just like that, or at least he doesn’t, and besides he had nothing to reproach himself with, so it never occurred to him to imagine what lay in store. At the police station they took his ID papers and led him into a little room to take his deposition, and then they made him wait in another room that was even smaller, for him to sign the document before leaving. They brought him a cup of coffee to keep him happy, but he had time to drink three cups, he was exhausted, and the bright white light in the room was dazzling; but the clock had stopped, he had no idea what time it was, and had such a terrible headache, it seemed to him that it was taking a long time, but then, he wasn’t used to this sort of thing, and anyway he couldn’t think straight so he didn’t even try. Finally they came back, but there were more of them this time, they had a few more questions to ask him. That’s when everything really took a turn for the worse.“Where did you spend the evening, Dr. Puig?”“At the movies, I already told you.”“Alone?”“But I already told you. I don’t understand. What is the point of this new interrogation?”“Dr. Puig, we ask the questions here. We’re not in your office, do you understand? So, to sum up: your wife didn’t feel like going to the movies, and when you came home, she was dead, is that correct?”“Yes, the door to the apartment was unlocked, there were signs of a struggle in the living room, the window was—”“Yes, yes, we know all that, you already told us all that.”“But I already told you everything.”“No, you didn’t tell us whether the movie was any good.”“Whether the film was any good? Is this some sort of joke? My wife has just been killed and you want me to tell you about a movie?”“Don’t take it like that, we just wanted to know; we like going to the movies, too. The lady at the box office is a pretty nice-looking girl, don’t you think? She has lovely big lips, and when I see big lips like that on a white woman, it always gives me ideas. I can’t help it. I think it’s what you call a ‘fantasy,’ right?”“I don’t give a damn about your fantasies.”“You’re wrong not to give a damn, because in your case those beautiful big lips are important, even decisive. In addition to performing miracles in bed—I’m sorry, I can’t help thinking about it—well, those beautiful big lips speak, and we’re not too happy about what they had to say about you.”“What did they have to say about me?”“That she didn’t see you there this evening. And that’s unfortunate, because she wasn’t the only one. The usher didn’t see you, either, but I may as well tell you, her lips were of no interest.”“That photograph is at least ten years old—you can hardly recognize me. What can they tell from a scrap of paper? That’s ridiculous.”“You are right, it would be—how did you put it?—oh, yes, ‘ridiculous’ to rely solely on this ID photo. What’s more, it’s true you look quite a bit older now. But rest assured, we do our job properly. Do you see that mirror over there? Well, they have had plenty of time to look at you, from every angle, and they have confirmed that neither one of them remembers seeing you this evening.”“They don’t remember seeing me, but do they remember not seeing me? Did you ask them that? It’s not the same, to not remember seeing someone, and to remember not seeing someone.”“Spare us your doublespeak, Dr. Puig, we’re not your patients, once is enough for us to understand things; but it’s true we didn’t put the question to them from that angle. We don’t have your acute sense of questions, of nuances—we could learn a lot from you—but sometimes, you know, things are simpler than that.”“Simpler than what? Say what you have to say. Stop insinuating things.”“We’re not insinuating anything.”“Well then, let me sign my deposition so I can go home. I’m exhausted.”“That’s going to be difficult.”“What do you mean, ‘that’s going to be difficult’? Because two women who spend their evenings watching a slew of faces go by don’t remember me?”“No, not because of that.”“Why then?”“Because these two women are two men, Dr. Puig, and we’re very surprised you didn’t point that out to us, and yet in your case you were not subjected to watching ‘a slew of faces go by.’”“Right from the start you have been talking to me about women, so all I did was repeat what you said.”“So if right from the start we had told you that you killed your wife, would you confirm that you killed your wife?”“I don’t remember who sold me my ticket, or who tore it in half. Was it a woman? Or a man? I don’t have a clue, I don’t remember.”“It would seem that everyone’s memory is poor this evening. But we have to start our investigation somehow or other, and at the moment, people’s memories are the only tangible elements we have at our disposal. It’s the same as for you, you have to start your psychoanalysis somewhere, and a few memories, even vague ones, are enough, and in your case you don’t even have to verify whether people’s testimonies are real—you only get one side of the story, and with you the guilty parties are always the same. It’s straightforward: the parents, the father and mother. But rest assured, as far as we’re concerned it’s the truth we’re after, and that’s why we’re not going to stop there. And even if unfortunately these few memories don’t speak in your favor, we do not doubt for a single moment that the ongoing investigation will prove your innocence, so don’t you worry, it’s surely only a matter of hours. Tomorrow night you’ll be sleeping in your own bed.”“I refuse to stay here another second. I’m going home.”“Calm down, Dr. Puig. You mustn’t get upset like this. Not at the police station.”“What are you doing? What is the meaning of this? Remove these handcuffs!”“It doesn’t mean a thing, but if you get agitated, we have to put handcuffs on you, that’s normal. Not everything always has to mean something in life.”“You’re overstepping the bounds of your remit.”“We’re not overstepping anything. By law any suspect can be taken into custody. Let’s just say that for the time being, unfortunately, you are a suspect.”“You’re making a grave mistake! I want to see a lawyer. I demand to see a lawyer.”“Once again—calm down. On the other hand, you have every right to demand the one thing you are now entitled to, so you see, it’s not so hard to come to an agreement. But first of all, let’s get the night over with. Apparently it’s best to sleep on things. Oh, yes! I nearly forgot, what size are you?”“What size what?”“What size jacket do you wear?”“Why are you asking me this?”“I’ll say it again: we ask the questions here, you’ll just have to get used to it. What size jacket are you?”“Fifty-two.”“As I thought. Well, good night, then. And maybe tomorrow morning you’ll remember something. With dreams you never know, since apparently you analyze them.”Eva Maria lights a cigarette. Vittorio told her everything. With the precision of someone who was used to words tripping over each other. She listened to him for nearly an hour. As a rule, he was the one who listened to her for nearly an hour. Eva Maria thinks, It’s odd how our roles in life get turned around sometimes. She hears the sound of the bandoneon.* Estéban has finished dinner. He’ll be going out soon. Eva Maria places her cigarette in the notch in the ashtray. She rummages in the pocket of her slacks. Pulls out a set of keys. Three keys hanging from a key ring. Which is itself in the shape of a key. Eva Maria looks at these four keys. One of which is a fake. She smiles. Vittorio could not believe his eyes when he saw them on the other side of the table. On the right side of the table in that fucking visiting room. It was too good to be true. Good God, how had she gotten hold of the keys to his house? What an expression on his face, when she told him the whole story. Eva Maria thinks back.“Morning, Mama. Did you sleep well?”Eva Maria didn’t answer. She was stunned. She muttered to herself.“It can’t be. It must be a mistake.”Eva Maria couldn’t take her eyes off the newspaper. Just a few lines. Estéban walked over to the fridge.“It was a really nice evening yesterday . . . you know, you should come one day . . . people dancing, they’re like sleeping volcanoes, except now they’re awake . . . just tell yourself that.”Eva Maria folded the paper. Abruptly. So, from one day to the next, a man could find himself in the paper. Eva Maria stood up. She went out into the hall. She put on her coat. Tied her scarf. Picked up her handbag. Estéban went up to her.“Are you all right, Mama?”“Yes, yes . . .”“What time will you be home tonight?”“At five o’clock.”“Okay, I’ll be here.”Estéban leaned over Eva Maria. He kissed her. Her mind was elsewhere. The door slammed. Estéban ran his fingers through his hair. He parted the curtain at the window. He watched Eva Maria running down the street, her bag in one hand, the newspaper in the other. She was holding it tight. The pages crumpled in her fist. The bus was about to leave. Eva Maria pounded on the window. The door opened; she climbed on board. The bus pulled away. Estéban let go of the curtain. He went to sit at the table. In Eva Maria’s place. His face went blank.Eva Maria got off the bus. Her bag in one hand, the newspaper in the other. She had relaxed her grip. Her hair was loose. The day was over. Eva Maria was walking quickly; she had to check something. She walked past a small café. El Pichuco. The waiter called out to her. Eva Maria waved to him without stopping. She had to check something. She walked up to a building. Went in. Climbed up five floors. Rang the bell on the right. Vittorio would open for her. No one answered. She rang again. No one. It couldn’t be. She pounded on the fake wooden panels. Stood there for a long while. Motionless. In front of the locked door, which didn’t open. Her hand tightened around the newspaper. She went back down the stairs. Crossed the square. Went into the small café. The waiter came over. He put a glass of wine down on the table for her. He was very agitated.“You’re not the only one who found no one at home. Haven’t you heard? He killed her. She’s dead. Can you imagine, dead? But he won’t get away with it, I can tell you that—he’s in a real pickle. You can’t imagine the chaos all day long, cops everywhere . . . A shrink who’s a murderer, that will get people talking, I can tell you.”Eva Maria put her glass down. Abruptly.“No, you can’t tell me; that’s just it! Shut up, Francisco, for once, just shut up, stop talking about things you know nothing about.”“But I do know—”“No, you don’t know anything.”Eva Maria stood up. She tossed a few coins on the table. Her tone was sharp.“Just because you’re dying to tell the entire planet you’ve been serving a murderer doesn’t mean that the man is a murderer.”Customers at neighboring tables turned around. Eva Maria left the café. She tossed the newspaper into the garbage can. She walked across the square and sat on a bench. It was cold. Eva Maria lit a cigarette. She looked up at the window. She looked down at the ground. It must be roughly there that they found the body. The sidewalk was as smooth as if nothing had happened. There was no blood. Nothing. Places keep no trace of the corpses that were once there. Places don’t like memories. Not the slightest dent on the asphalt. Not the slightest little alteration in the concrete. A falling body never causes the earth to move. Eva Maria looked up at the window. She looked down at the ground. From the sixth floor, it would have been a miracle if the girl had survived. Did her face hit first, or her body? Were her limbs dislocated, in a position that would have been impossible when she was alive? Did her hair form a screen? Or did it all mass together on one side, revealing a pallor that in and of itself was enough to place her already among the dead? Was she disfigured? Or was she as beautiful dead as she had been alive? Eva Maria had seen her in their apartment several times, a graceful figure who eluded her gaze, the way she must surely have eluded other patients’ gazes. What was their arrangement? The premises belonged to her as much as to him, of course, except when a patient was coming in, except when a patient was going out. Doctor-patient confidentiality, it was called. Eva Maria thought about the newspaper in the garbage can. It was a pity the same confidentiality didn’t hold true for journalists; it was a pity that anybody could appear as a suspect to the rest of the planet. Only a culprit should be allowed to appear in newspapers. Eva Maria stiffened. A young man, an adolescent, was standing a few feet away, his eyes glued to the ground. He looked up at the window, one hand in his pocket, the other dangling by his side. Eva Maria observed him. Intrigued. If he’d had a different attitude, she might have been suspicious, but his gaze went no farther than this unfortunate back and forth between the window and the ground. After a while, the young man headed over to the building and went in. Eva Maria stood up. Just because you look unhappy doesn’t mean you’re not guilty. Eva Maria followed the young man. She heard his steps in the stairway. He was going up. She went up. He stopped. Sixth floor—she’d suspected as much. A patient. Eva Maria pretended to go by him. The young man was pounding on the fake wooden paneling. How many of them had there already been that day, making this incredulous pilgrimage? Eva Maria turned back.“Are you looking for someone, young man?”“I came to see the man who lives here.”“He’s not here.”The young boy stood there without moving, at a loss. Eva Maria went back down one step. She would like to comfort him. Even if it meant lying.“Can I help you? I live just above.”The young man took his hand out of his pocket. He didn’t seem to know what to do with it. There was something shiny in his palm.“I came to give him back his keys. He lost them yesterday, in the street, next to . . . next to . . .”The young man couldn’t finish his sentence. Eva Maria prompted him.“Next to the corpse?”The young man nodded. Eva Maria tried to stay calm.“Were you there?”The young man looked down.“My girlfriend and I found her—it was our first dinner together, just the two of us, I mean; it was strange, but it went well. We were on our way home. I was happy because she took my hand—it was the first time, we weren’t saying much and I thought I was kind of useless. What’s crazy is that I was praying that something would happen, I swear, anything that would slow us up. I was kind of scared to see her to her front door. We’ve never kissed. I mean, there”—he gestured toward his lips—“you see . . . so I wasn’t walking very fast. It was my girlfriend who saw her first. ‘Look, over there, on the sidewalk, it looks like a body.’ At first we thought it must be a tramp, but it’s not really that kind of neighborhood, and when we got closer we saw it was a woman, wearing a nice dress, and we saw the open window. We ran closer. Just then her husband appeared in the window and he shouted something. We didn’t dare go near the body; we didn’t even dare look at it too closely, or at least I didn’t. Her husband got there very quickly—he was screaming. He’s the one who actually saw that she was dead. Did she commit suicide?”The young man’s expression was distraught. Eva Maria could sense his distress. He needed to move beyond this horrible scene that life had thrust upon him without warning: death, there before his eyes. Eva Maria did not hesitate for a second. Even if it meant lying.“Yes, you’re right. She committed suicide.”Eva Maria moved down the few steps between herself and the young man. She knew. In these conditions, concrete decisions were better than any emotional convolutions.“You can leave the keys with me, if you like. I’ll give them back to Vittorio.”The young man did not hesitate for a second. He handed the set of keys to Eva Maria. And as if the fact of being free of them enabled him to relax at last, he sat with all his weight on one of the steps. He sighed. His body was relieved; his soul, not quite altogether.“I had never seen a dead body before.”Eva Maria would have liked to take his hand, but thought better of it.“Me neither. I’ve never seen a dead body.”“You’re lucky.”“I wish I had.”The young man turned to her.“That’s a really weird thing to say.”Eva Maria squeezed her hands together.“I had a daughter, her name was Stella. She was roughly your age. One morning I kissed her good-bye; she was on her way to class. I never saw her again. That was five years ago last week. So you see, I wish I could have seen her dead rather than just knowing she was dead.”The young man lowered his head.“I’m so sorry. They killed so many people.”*They both fell silent, staring into space. Eva Maria tried to laugh. She decided to change the subject.“Just between you and me, it could have been a very successful kiss . . .”The young man smiled, a smile of adolescence, but he was still thinking.“Did you know this woman?”“No, but I know her husband.”The young man’s smile faded.“The poor guy, he was circling around her like a crazy man, pounding against the wall with his fists and screaming. He was devastated.”“Did you tell that to the police?”The young man went tense.“The police? What do the police have to do with this business? I don’t have anything to tell the police.”The young man panicked. He got to his feet. Rushed down the stairs. Eva Maria couldn’t stop him. She didn’t try to stop him. The young man fled the way any adolescent would flee from the word “police,” not as a murderer. If a murderer always returns to the scene of the crime, this boy was no murderer; he didn’t have what it takes. Eva Maria was convinced of that. Maybe he simply hadn’t told his parents that he was having dinner with his girlfriend—he would have had to explain everything to them, and at his age, confessing to his parents that he’d had dinner with a girl was unthinkable. “Like parents confessing to their children that they made love the night before,” as Vittorio might have said. Eva Maria shook her head. She could hear the young man disappearing down the stairway. In any case, the police would have brushed aside his testimony about Vittorio’s sorrow and distress. “Pretending, acting,” they would have said. “Every wife killer starts off acting devastated, circling around the victim like a crazy man, pounding against the wall with his fists and screaming. Then he confesses.” Eva Maria stood there alone on the step. She looked at the keys lying in her palm, lying like a corpse on the ground. From the sixth floor. That poor girl’s body must have been broken in several places, like any victim of a terrible fall from a great height. They also found such fractures on the bodies of the desaparecidos* that the sea washed back up after a time, fractures that would be impossible for someone to cause with their bare hands or even with a weapon. Even if they really went to town. Eva Maria imagined Neptune surrendering the bodies, to prove the guilt of the arrogant, hitherto untouchable torturers. Neptune the Stern, Neptune the Just, bringing proof of the junta’s abuse of power. Nature helping man to judge his fellow man. A part of Eva Maria was convinced that Neptune would have given Stella’s body back to her, out of pity for a mother’s heart that was dying from not knowing. But another part of Eva Maria knew that Neptune did not exist, and she wondered whether Stella’s body still lay in the depths of the river. Stella, her beloved child: did they get rid of her the way they did the others? One Wednesday evening, with an injection of Pentothal and an airplane and an open door, and her living body hurled from up there into the Rio de la Plata, was she conscious? Was she in tears? Imploring them? Did she scream as she fell through the void? Did she feel her clothing undressing her? Or was she already naked? Did she know that her body was going to hit the surface of the water, that same water that up to now she had only known as gentle and penetrable? She, who loved the water so. How can a mother not sense it when her child dies? Stella cannot be dead, it’s not possible. Eva Maria shook her head to banish the unbearable vision of her daughter’s body lying on the bed of the river. The tears started down her cheeks. Eva Maria looked at the steps plunging downward. If the stairway could talk it would tell her who killed Vittorio’s wife. She would give anything to know the murderer’s identity. Eva Maria got to her feet. She hoped that some light would be shed on the murder in the coming days and that Vittorio would be exonerated. She hoped above all that she would soon be alone with him, like before; she needed it so badly. She would never be able to go on without him, to go on living. Eva Maria left the building. Then the days passed. She decided to visit Vittorio in prison. She was afraid they might not allow her to visit. They didn’t cause any problems. The only procedure was a mandatory search. It was too good to be true.

Editorial Reviews

“A cerebral mystery . . . [and] a moving look at how evil, having seized political power, can cripple nations and crush souls.”–The Washington Post“For fans of Gone Girl . . . an Argentine love triangle featuring a psychoanalyst arrested for his wife’s death and a patient trying to clear her therapist’s name.” –O, The Oprah Magazine"[Eva Maria] makes for an original, if unlikely, detective. But the real hero of this story may well be the victim of Puig’s crime: his wife Lisandra. . . . At times, Lisandra’s existential angst sounds like it might have been pulled directly out of one of those turbid 1920s tango lyrics for which Buenos Aires is famous. . . . The prose takes on a mysterious exactitude reminiscent of Franz Kafka."–Los Angeles Review of Books“A cunningly plotted tale that is by turns cerebral, suspenseful—and ultimately shocking.” –Publishers Weekly“Full of truly unexpected twists and poignant turns, Grémillon's subtly political drama reverberates long after the killer is unmasked.” –Kirkus Reviews"[The Case of Lisandra P.] might be considered a murder mystery, but the story is much more than that. . . . This tense novel of both the personal and the political touches on the ugly truth of a brutal regime while also examining jealousy and betrayal, with disturbing twists and turns. . . .  Grémillon’s breathless prose captures the frantic state of Eva Maria’s mind."–Library Journal“Hélène Grémillon has proved herself more than ever a master of the art of the ‘page-turner.’” –Paris Match (France) "The new Patricia Highsmith . . . [This] is only Hélène Grémillon’s second novel, and already it establishes her among the exceptionally gifted writers of this season.” –est Magazine (France)   "A successful novel. . . The cohabitation of executioners and victims, betrayal, jealousy, the inability to understand things that are right in front of us: throughout the thread of the narrative, Hélène Grémillon interweaves these various motifs with fluidity." –Le Monde (France)   “The strength of Hélène Grémillon’s novel is not only its premise, but also its psychological analysis.” –Le Nouvel Observateur (France)   "In direct, sometimes crude, language, this diabolical novelist guides us through the complex maze of the psyche." –ELLE (France)   "An addictive storyline that leaves us stunned." –Pleine Vie (France)