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Arts & Culture

Shockwaves Of A Kidnapping Echo In 'Barefoot Dogs'

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Antonio Ruiz Camacho left Mexico more than 10 years ago, but the devastation of the country's drug violence has stayed with him. That's clear in his new book, his first, titled "Barefoot Dogs." It's a collection of linked stories, and Alan Cheuse has our review.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: One afternoon, as he leaves his downtown Mexico City office for lunch, the head of family Jose Victoriano Arteaga disappears - the victim of one of a rash of urban kidnappings. We hear this in the opening story of "Barefoot Dogs" as one of the missing man's grandchildren - speaking with an innocence most of the members of the family will soon lose - recounts the difference between life before the kidnapping and just after. But the book is more than a crime story. It's a family drama signifying a national crisis.

Ruiz Camacho writes in a colloquial, loosely assembled realistic fashion, so that the devastating effect of the kidnapping builds slowly, but irrevocably, producing a portrait of several generations of a family suffering at the whims of criminals whom we never see. Though in the end, and here's where Ruiz Camacho's talent really shows through, when the kidnapped victim's son, living in exile in Madrid, goes out to walk his dog and receives the shock of his life. The book rises to a new and surprising level of reality. Taken together, these stories have a kind of staying power unusual in a first book.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

That book is "Barefoot Dogs" by Antonio Ruiz Camacho. Alan Cheuse had our review. His latest book is out this month, titled "Prayers For The Living." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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