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LIFE ITSELF by Paco Ignacio Taibo

LIFE ITSELF

By Paco Ignacio Taibo

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-89296-518-5

 Taibo's waggish novels about Mexico City shamus Hector Belascoar†n Shayne (No Happy Ending, 1993, etc.) often gave the impression of wanting to be the last detective stories ever written. That impression's even stronger in this novel-about-a- novel that sends mystery writer JosÇ Daniel Fierro, who squeezes orange juice by hand and urinates sitting down, to the northern town of Santa Ana as its new police chief. Against a backdrop of laughably epidemic ruling-party corruption and anti-union warfare, JD and his colorful underlings (an assistant who only answers to ``Blind Man,'' officers who once worked as activists or sold insurance) battle the federal judicial police (who as always are intent on a cover-up) to identify a killer: Someone followed American photographer Anne Goldin from her tryst with Santa Ana's mayor and left her nude, stabbed body in front of the altar at the Church of Carmen. It's only the first of several murders, each of which implicates the victim neatly in the preceding murder. But the case itself, as JD muses in his interspersed letters to his wife back home and in his ``Notes for the History of the Radical City Government of Santa Ana,'' is anything but neat. JD ``discovers nothing, only that things simply happen,'' as in life itself. JD is on target on his own novel's shortcomings: ``It lacks a hook, dramatic architecture, the negative characters...are badly drawn.'' But this end-of-the-road fantasy, so full of Taibo's melancholy cartoon gaiety, will be a feast for connoisseurs.