THE SITE FOR DIE HARD CRIME & THRILLER FANS
iBookKindlePrintReviews

The Dead Women of Juárez

2 Mins read

Written by Sam Hawken — It’s a tough sell setting a crime fiction book against a backdrop of real life horrors without coming across as sensationalist or trivial. But this is precisely what Sam Hawken attempts to do in his first book, The Dead Women of Juárez, and pulls it off fantastically.

The real life horror in question takes place in the Mexican city of Juárez, just across the border from the United States. It is famous for two things. Firstly, it’s a magnet for multinational companies seeking cheap, mainly female, labour. Secondly, since 1993 as many as 5000 women have been murdered there and no one has been brought to justice.

Hawken inserts into this picture the fictional character of Kelly Courter, a washed up, junkie boxer who makes a living as a punching bag for younger, hungrier Mexican fighters. As a sideline, he traffics and sells drugs for Esteban, his friend and the brother of Kelly’s on-again-off-again girlfriend and women’s rights activist, Paloma.

Kelly is in self-imposed exile in Juárez, escaping the legal and moral consequences of a fatal mistake, the details of which we learn about much later on in the book. It’s a day-by-day struggle to survive in a tough town, constantly being shadowed by grizzled Mexican narcotics cop, Sevilla, apparently intent on busting Kelly for his illegal activities.

Hawken introduces the horror of what is happening in Juarez with a slow burn, not a bang, through the posters of missing women on telegraph poles and the fear of women on the street. I can’t say much more without giving the story away. Paloma disappears and Kelly comes off a major drug binge to discover he is the prime suspect. His fate is in the hands of Sevilla, a man with secrets and ghosts of his own, in many ways as much as stranger in Mexico as Kelly.

Hawken’s writing is sparse and basic. His bio says he is a Texas native. If so he must have spent time in Mexico because his depiction of the violence, poverty and fleeting beauty of the country feels like it can only have come from first hand exposure.

The book has its problems. In particular, the ending felt too quick and forced. But these don’t distract from its many strengths. The Dead Women of Juárez is a gritty, gripping noir. Like the best crime fiction, it is also holds a mirror to some pretty horrific realities and a fight for justice that shows no sign of being won anytime soon. If this is what Hawken does with his first novel, I’m looking forward to his next.

Serpent’s Tail
Print/Kindle/iBook
£3.59

CFL Rating: 4 Stars


3 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related posts
KindlePrintReviews

The Last to Disappear by Jo Spain

Jo Spain’s fingers have been on fire since her first novel in 2015. There’s the highly rated Tom Reynolds series, a clutch of clever standalones, several screenwriting projects (Taken Down and Harry Wild) and now a new international mystery. The Last to Disappear is set…
iBookKindlePrintReviews

The Cook by Ajay Chowdhury

It is just a year since we met Kamil Rahman, once an up-and-coming detective in the Kolkata police force, more recently a lowly waiter in an Indian restaurant in Brick Lane, London, in the award-winning debut The Waiter. Now Kamil is back – and he’s…
iBookKindlePrintReviews

City on Fire by Don Winslow

Organised crime and corruption are constants in Don Winslow novels, but rarely has he roamed the classic gangster territory of the northeastern United States. Nor has he previously underpinned his storytelling with classical inspiration – in this case dating back to Ancient Greece. City on…
Crime Fiction Lover