A young and troubled policewoman in Mexico City's borough of Iztapalapa fights demons both internal and external in Esquivel's (Malinche, 2006, etc.) latest.
Lupita is working security at an appearance by a municipal delegado, Larreaga, recently elected on a platform of cleaning up drug-related graft. As he emerges from his limousine, his throat is slit by an unseen assailant. Lupita sets out to solve the murder as, through flashbacks interspersed with boxed snippets of Aztec and Mayan lore, Esquivel parses the mystery and allegorical import of her protagonist's life. Raped in adolescence by her drunken stepfather, Lupita has waged a lifelong struggle with the demon of body image, not to mention tequila and cocaine: after she caused the death of her toddler son while on a bender, she served prison time. She’s been sober for years, but the Larreaga assassination has tipped her off the wagon. It appears that Mami, the gangster queen of the street vendors/drug dealers whom the delegado crusaded against, may have engineered his death. Mami is wrangling with the police over an upcoming Passion play which is threatening to displace her minions’ food and drug stalls. It isn’t long before Lupita herself becomes a target or before she recognizes, in no particular order, the power of a) love, b) sobriety, c) anti-consumerism, and d) reconnecting with the shamans and the more salubrious hallucinogens of her pre-Cortez ancestors. (Obsidian, a sacred substance of weaponry and sorcery, is a recurring motif.)
A sympathetic protagonist and an engrossing exposition of social and political chaos in Mexico are smothered by generalized palaver about the oneness of the universe and the mythology of light.