Crime novels don't get much grittier or more brutal than the second thriller by Solares (The Black Minutes, 2010), set in a contemporary northern Mexico that's a blood-soaked moonscape.
"This isn't a city anymore," a former colleague tells Carlos Treviño when the ex-cop returns to the corrupt, cartel-run coastal city of La Eternidad. "It's a...western." The teenage daughter of a wealthy industrialist has been kidnapped—an everyday occurrence here, given the vicious turf wars and power struggles that have emptied out the city, closed its clubs and restaurants, and left the streets filled with countless roadblock shakedowns and the burned-out husks of cars. But the girl's body hasn't been discovered, and there's been no demand for ransom. Might she still be saved? Though Treviño is a wanted man here, having crossed the police chief and his minions by being incorruptible, the reluctant detective gets coaxed back from his remote hideaway by the possibility of a gigantic paycheck. Meanwhile, Treviño's old police antagonist, the venal opportunist (and thus survivor) Chief Margarito González, is trying to feather his nest before retiring, and he'd love to exact revenge against Treviño on the way out. Solares' great gift here is for setting. He captures heart-wrenchingly the grim chaos and hopelessness of a country run by drug lords, smugglers, and the sleazy kleptocrats they own. Some readers may struggle with the machismo that dominates not only the city, but the novel, and in the second half especially, which focuses on Margarito's grafts within grafts and intrigues within intrigues, the plot and structure grow a bit too baroque and disorderly, but Solares keeps the pace high, the pages turning.
A sort of Mexico Confidential, with noirish atmosphere to burn and a very high body count.