A review by abbie_
Dead Girls, by Selva Almada

challenging dark informative sad medium-paced
  • Strong character development? N/A
  • Loveable characters? N/A
  • Diverse cast of characters? N/A
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? N/A
Originally published on my website northernbibliophile.com

Thank you so much Charco Press for gifting me an early copy of Dead Girls by Selva Almada, translated by Annie McDermott! I hope this book will make it on to reading lists far and wide, as it’s such a necessary piece of writing. It comes out on the 3rd September in the UK.


Almada focuses on three unsolved femicides which took place in Argentina during the 80s. Andrea Danne, 19, María Luisa Quevedo, 15, and Sarita Mundín, 20, were all murdered in the inteior of Argentina. Selva Almada went to their hometowns, conducted research, did interviews with the families. These are all real cases where two teenagers and a 20-year-old died and their killer walked away.


There’s a very interesting interview with the translator of this book (and Minor Detail’s translator Elisabeth Jaquette) on @fitzcarraldoeditions Instagram. McDermott talks about how difficult it is to categorise this book. It’s almost a novel, almost true crime, almost a piece of extended journalism… but at the same time it’s none of those things. In translating it, she had to do her best to stay within that same indistinct area. If she didn’t, she would run the risk of changing it into something else entirely.

For me personally, it reads like a novel. However, Almada constantly reminds us that these girls existed and the crimes perpetrated against them did happen. Almada reminds the reader frequently that she or her friends could just have easily been one of those girls. As much as other people might try to find some way to blame them for their own deaths (‘she was working as a prostitute’, ‘she started working as a maid at too young an age’), you cannot escape the fact that they were murdered for being girls and there was no justice. Almada exposes the botched investigations, the apprehension of wrong suspects, how effort put into the searches varied depending on the victim’s social class and her family’s money.


It was all difficult to read, but there was one part that hit me the hardest. They uncovered the bones of one girl, Sarita, at a time when DNA testing wasn’t available. Once it was, her sister insisted on exhuming them and testing them. They found that the bones were not a match. So for however many years, these bones, the bones of some other girl, had been resting under Sarita’s name. What happened to Sarita? Who was the other girl? Was anyone looking for her? These are questions Selva Almada doesn’t answer, couldn’t possibly answer. That isn’t what she set out to do.

Truly an incredible piece of writing, however you want to categorise it. Femicide is a more urgent issue than ever, in Argentina and worldwide, only increasing under lockdown rules. Since the start of 2020, a reported 148 femicides have been committed. This book is a powerful, timely and sobering look at a deadly issue that will leave you feeling frustrated but ready to act and further informed.

Check out the organisations Ni Una Menos for more information on femicide in Argentina. And be sure to get yourself a copy of Dead Girls when it releases on the 3rd of September.