In Paxton’s novel, a journalist fights for his sanity and his life on the cartel-infested streets of Juarez, Mexico.
Juarez is not your typical city. With an early crash course in local and national Mexican politics, readers will quickly realize that the imminent rise of drug cartels is a highly political affair. That’s not to say Paxton is arguing an agenda. On the contrary, his novel presents the city of Juarez as it is: overrun by well-funded, organized cartels that are savvy enough to hire professional assassins and connected lawyers for their defense, all while common street thugs look for any opportunity to intimidate and steal from local businesses and townsfolk. In the midst of all this chaos is Saul Saavedra, a veteran journalist at The Juarez Daily (“the only professional newspaper” in town). Consumed by the constant violence perpetrated by the cartels and thugs, as well as the inefficient and corrupt police force willfully abetting them, Saul reports on the near-daily executions, extortions and robberies that are rampant in the city. His work has hardened him, but his loving wife and two young daughters are what keep him fighting the good fight to reveal and right the torrent of injustice. The violence may not shock some readers, since newspapers—even here in America, where the overflow is less frequent—are eager to jump on any sensationalist morsel, so the frequent assassinations have become somewhat unsurprising. It is, nevertheless, disconcerting to read about Saul’s casual adjustments to the murderous climate, not only for the sake of his career, but also for his life. For instance, in case of a sudden shootout, he has trained himself to seek alternate routes and escape points while driving. Details like this offer an eerie believability to the real-life dangers in Juarez; there are moments, however, when the narrative slips into the trappings of parody and genre. For the most part, though, the novel’s daringness and its dark, all-too-real conclusion put an unsettling perspective on the alarming situation south of the border.
An engaging read that will undoubtedly awaken readers to the horrors of the drug war.