Translated by Edith Grossman, Roncagliolo's writing, pacing, and plot make Red April a book that is difficult to put down. At the same time, Chacaltana is a unique protagonist. While he struggles with his own demons, including visiting with his death mother each day in his home, he also helps mediate some of the gruesomeness of the story. His short investigative reports, one of which opens the book, and his attention to them are not only character-incisive, they are memorable. Not only do they stand in sharp contrast to notes the killer(s) seem to make after each murder, they reflect both his desire to follow bureaucratic procedures and his own touch of ineptitude. Thus, he reports that the 1,576 residents of a village can't remember where the individual who found the burned body was because they were as drunk as he during a three-day festival. He also reports that the man was said to be in the hayloft because he was with a married woman, "endowed, according to witnesses, with sizable haunches and a lively carnal appetite."
In the end, though, Red April is political thriller and commentary as murder mystery. It takes the elements of crime fiction, including the police procedural, and uses them to provide a view of how innocents were caught between the brutality of both the Shining Path and the counterinsurgency. Roncagliolo lends it all an air of authenticity by not only describing tactics used by both sides but taking some of the dialogue from actual contemporary documents. While enjoying the book, American readers will feel fortunate that it is not an authenticity derived from our own national history.