Monday, February 17, 2014

Finished: "The Dead Women of Juarez" by Sam Hawken

Finished: The Dead Women of Juarez by Sam Hawken, 2011, 9781846687747.

I cannot recall why I reserved this.  I think I had this sitting on an old order list for work.  I've kept a lot of titles on the order list. I won't buy the books but will keep them there because I might read them.

This novel touches on the many femicides in Juarez, Mexico.  There is not an attempt to cover the whole story.  Hawken focuses in on a single murder and a bad guy conspiracy.  Spoilers to follow.

American Kelly Courter boxes at smokers in Juarez and helps his best pal, Esteban, deal marijuana to tourists.  Kelly escaped something in the States (you find out later it was a drunk driving death and heroin addiction) and lost his boxing license in the States.  Kelly is dating Esteban's sister, Paloma, and living in a decent apartment for Juarez.  Paloma loves Kelly but does not want to commit.  She spends her time working for Mujeres Sin Voices that tries to find justice for the many, many missing and murdered women of Juarez.  Paloma supports the mothers and wives looking for answers.

Kelly is occasionally visited by state policeman Sevilla.  Or was he a City cop?  I don't recall.  Sevilla has spent a couple years trying to work Kelly has an informant.  Sevilla wants Kelly to tell him the name of Esteban's heroin connection.  Kelly does not know anyway. Kelly likes to smoke dope, drink beer, and sell weed in the tourist bars.

Kelly and Paloma have it out one day about love. Kelly starts to train more seriously for boxing.  He wants to get into real matches and not the unsanctioned smokers run by Ortiz, a local knock around goon.  Kelly tries to get Ortiz to bank him for a real boxing run.  Kelly is still young enough (30 years-old) and fit enough and can fight under an assumed name.  Ortiz gives an insulting "no".  Kelly falls of the heroin wagon and starts living inside a needle.

Kelly awakes in his now filthy apartment to Sevilla at his door.  A bunch of riot-geared cops burst in after Sevilla.  Paloma has been found raped and murdered.  Kelly is blamed.  Sevilla is there to try and moderate things.  Kelly denies all.  Brutal cop tortures Kelly.  Brutal cop pounds Kelly into coma.

Sevilla takes over the novel.  Sevilla believes Kelly did not kill Paloma.  Sevilla starts working with protege of brutal cop.  They find out more.  The reader finds out more.

Lots of Juarez scenery and economics as people work long hours at the maquiladora factories.  The outside suburbs are shacks without sewage.  The super rich live far outside of town in a gated community with armed guards.  The cartels take the bulk of the cops' time but do not have an effect on the everyday life of the novel's characters.  The mass murders take on a personal note.  The murder of Paloma and Seville's missing daughter and infant granddaughter. The vicious and corrupt police attempts to actually solve one of those killings.

1.  Juarez should be spelled Juarex because Juarex is easier for me to type.
2.  Not a great novel but an interesting look at Mexico.  The flick Way of the Gun has a scene where Mexican cops show up.  The cops are real cops, they are turned out in clean and pressed uniforms with a maintained squad car and serious, professional behavior.  The director's DVD commentary focused on this - that these are not guys looking for a handout.  The director skipped the cliche,  In most drama you get a slovenly, fat, bad guy cop in Mexico.  Dead Women's Sevilla is a dedicated policeman looking to arrest the bad guys.
3.  Not that the cop's dedication is any reason not to have a climactic shoot-out and deaths.  This is a novel after all.

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