Who’s been posting slanderous bills across a small town? Pitched into the midst of a familiar Marquezian village, we shadow each restless character through a loosely mysterious maze of whodunnit. Someone has been viciously lampooning the townspeople, publicly outing the dirty deeds and secret desires of the locals, and everyone is on edge to find the culprit.
Father Ángel, the pastor, anchors the town and keeps the listless souls from floating away in the troubled waters of their own self-pity. Trinidad, the church’s verger, counters his weight as the untouchable beauty, who the men, not surprisingly, lust after. We have our stock characters from Marquez’s usual palette, the vengeful town mayor, César Montero, who suffers from his own lust while toiling away in a stale marriage to Rosario Montero. Dr. Giraldo and Judge Arcadio act as the pyscho-somatic conscious, diagnosing and feebly meting out guilt while the townsfolk treat justice as a performance piece.
Like a pebble dropped into a pool of water, we follow the concentric circles of each individual, tracing their quiet neuroticisms, which simmer close to boiling point. The mystery of the lampoons is incidental. What drives this story are the relationships and appetites which feed into a collective paranoia. As the anxieties become self-perpetuating, In Evil Hour is a hunger frenzy perpetrated by near-empty souls who lust and seek revenge from one another.
This novella is not Marquez’s strongest, but we can see him stretching his muscles for the marathons that would be One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. Best to stick to his short stories, which, diamond-like, the more compressed his narratives are, the brighter they gleam, and the sharper they cut to the bone.