When Father Almida is summoned to an audience with the parish's principal benefactor, a stand-in is found in Father Matamoros, a drunkard with an angel's voice whose sung mass is mesmerizing to all. But Matamoros hides a darker side, and when the church's residents throw a feast for him he encourages them to lose all their inhibitions and give free reign to their most Bacchanalian desires.
A satire on the iniquities of the Catholic church in Colombia, Good Offices is at once comic, surreal and startling, a novel that will linger long in the mind.
In his second novel translated into English, award-winning Rosero (The Armies) documents a night in the life of hunchback and charity worker Tancredo, a man whose church conceals underhanded activities. Despite the simple premise a parish priest and sacristan's departure results in the evening service being performed by the eccentric, vocally talented Father Matamoros this slim work becomes a lively enactment of the idiom "When the cat's away, the mice will play," as well as a sobering look at resentment. When the employees who remain behind (including Sabina, the three Lilias, and Tancredo) reveal their displeasure as overworked individuals, among other confessions, they expose the underside of institutionalized care. Fans of Hispanophone literature will appreciate Bogot serving as the backdrop for simmering passions as well as Catholic corruption. The opening section detailing Tancredo's weekly duties is especially noteworthy; McLean and Milsom perfectly portray the chaotic, yet mundane atmosphere. Character-driven, focused, and determined in its study of appearance versus reality, this social commentary is rendered with colorful aplomb.