A Canadian lawyer gets drawn into Mexico’s contemporary revolutionary struggle in this thriller.
In 2001, Ted Sorenson’s life is one that’s full of “bad decisions,” including a “bad marriage.” He reluctantly visits a spa in the Mexican countryside, looking for a new lease on life. En route, he meets and falls for an American woman who identifies herself as Barbara Jones, a brokerage firm’s bookkeeper. But at the border, she tells customs officials that her name is Bailey. When readers next see her, she’s purchasing a Smith & Wesson .30-caliber pistol and hollow-point bullets in Tecate. It turns out that she has some unfinished business involving Capitán Hernandez, a sadistic Mexican army general who led the 1997 slaughter of 45 villagers in Acteal, where Bailey was working at the time. She survived the attack but not before enduring unspeakable abuses, harrowingly revealed as the book progresses. Soon after Ted agrees to help her, he’s arrested; after Bailey breaks him out of jail, she discovers that there’s an international warrant out for his capture. The action escalates, and later Bailey kills a gunman and saves the life of Subcomandante Marcos, leader of the revolutionary Zapatistas, “a legend in his own time.” She then tries to get Marcos, who was also at Acteal, to kill Hernandez. Cuddy’s posthumously published debut novel is based on the actual Acteal massacre, and other figures, such as Marcos and the Zapatistas, are also drawn from real life. However, it also has a propulsive, noirish quality, as it tells the story of a good man and a woman with a tortured past who draws him into extraordinary events that test his mettle. Cuddy’s descriptions of the landscape, village culture, and the Zapatistas’ militant crusade all feel authentic. By comparison, Hernandez’s posturing villainy seems a bit overly broad, but Cuddy does devise credible, hard-earned fates for each of his vivid characters.
A gripping yarn for armchair adventurers.