After being diagnosed with a fatal brain condition, a seemingly mild-mannered New York book editor heads to Mexico for a violent confrontation with his past.
Richard Marder never fully realized how much taking his young wife, Chole, to New York City from her home in Michoacán, and her subsequent estrangement from her family, would affect her mental state. Then one night, years later, while Marder was with another woman, Chole took too many pills and plunged to her death from the roof of their apartment building. When a doctor diagnoses Marder with an inoperable aneurysm three years after her death, he decides to head back to Michoacán for reasons that don’t seem entirely clear, even to him. But a peaceful end is clearly not on his mind, as he loads his new RV with several guns as well as Patrick Skelly, his friend and fellow Vietnam vet who works on the dangerous fringes of the “security consultant” business. Once in Mexico, they find themselves caught in the middle of a vicious war between two narcogangs, both of which are interested in turning Marder’s newly purchased property into a money-laundering casino, but which Marder has almost accidentally turned into an artists’ colony, peopled by refugees from the surrounding drug violence. Beset on all sides by hostile forces, and dogged by his past, Marder must use all of his wiles, as well as a bunch of guns and a huge pile of ammo, to protect his new home. Gruber (The Good Son, 2010, etc.) has a gift for seamlessly combining the visceral with the cerebral, without any degradation of quality on either side of the coin. He will have readers ruminating on ideas of identity, history, mortality, family, fate, and the complex and destructive relationship between Mexico and its neighbor El Norte, all while simultaneously thrilling their pants off, which is a rare and wonderful thing. Like Gruber’s other books, this novel puts the work of other thriller writers to shame and raises the quality bar for the genre to a precipitously high level.
Thrilling and compulsively readable.