The Big Hoax

An elaborate hoax has been created to keep the birth rate of a banana republic down, but now the woman at its centre wants out

The Big Hoax was first published as La Grande Arnaque in French at the end of the 1990s. Written and illustrated by Argentinian creators, it’s a steamy and sultry gangster-era crime noir, set in the fictional banana republic of La Colonia.

The so-called hoax of the title is the ‘intact virgin’ – Miranda Centurion – a young woman whose untouched sexual purity becomes a local myth when rumours start spreading of her ability to heal the sick. The story is a lie, and she’s being threatened with pictures that could expose her. But as in true crime noir style, the story is just as much about the ex-cop she seeks out – a down-on-his-luck private eye called Donald Reynoso.

Reynoso, of course, falls for his femme fatale client and will have to use all his wits to do whatever it takes to help her. This includes escaping from The Iguana, a hitman and enforcer whose penchant for violence knows no limits. All the while there’s a backdrop of guerrilla warfare threatening to turn nasty.

Written by Carlos Trillo, with art by Roberto Mandrafina, the long-time collaborators tell everything in a very confident style. It’s a story about stories, told in clear visuals with storytellers that talk directly to the readers to fill in various plot points. Each hoax leads to another story as nothing ever quite goes to plan.

With generous helpings of sex and violence this book contrasts adult humour with some very dark undertones. It’s an intriguing and very readable mix that ticks all the crime noir boxes as it hurtles towards its inevitable conclusion.

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