MEXICO CITY NOIR edited by Paco Ignacio Taibo II

Book Quote:

“I’ve said many times that statistics reveal a surprising city; one that has more movie theatres than Paris, more abortions than London, more universities than New York. Where nighttime has become sparse, desolate, the kingdom of only a few. Where violence rules, corners us, silences us into a kind of autism. Shuts us in our bedrooms with the TV on, creates that terrible circle of solitude where no one can depend on anyone but themselves.”

Book Review:

Review by Guy Savage (MAR 11, 2010)

As a fan of author Paco Ignacio Taibo II, the founder of the Mexican neodetective story, I knew I had to read Mexico City Noir released 2/10 by Akashic books. I am addicted to Taibo’s series detective novels which feature the philosophical one-eyed detective Hector Belascoaran Shayne. Hector’s favoured modus operandi is to snoop around and to be a big enough pain that someone somewhere breaks ranks and rattles loose with a clue or two. It’s a method that gets Taibo into a great deal of trouble (hence the one-eye), and keeps him poor, but he never loses his sense of humour. Anyway, add me to the legion of Taibo’s fans who’d read this writer’s shopping list if he bothered to write it on a piece of toilet paper.

So…this brings me back to Mexico City Noir a collection of 12 stories written by some of Mexico’s hottest talent (I should add here that Taibo was born in Spain but has lived in Mexico since 1958). Mexico City Noir is part of Akashic’s Noir Series. Each book in the series is set in either a distinct neighbourhood or location: hence Mexico City Noir. I haven’t read Akashic’s Paris Noir, but when I hear the title, I can’t help but see some elegant, suave noir characters (I’m thinking Jean Gabin or Alain Delon here…), but Mexico City Noir…well…you know it’s going to be hardcore.

The wonderful, insightful introduction written by Taibo sets the scene for what to expect from the rest of the book. Taibo clearly loves Mexico City, and he calls it “the best city on the planet in spite of itself.” Many of Taibo’s introductory, wry observations about the city are affectionate, but others analyze the insurmountable corruption. He recounts how he met a policeman who works a particular corner; it’s “his” corner, and that translates to mean he must pay his supervisor what amounts to a weekly “rent”– a portion of whatever fines he can extract from those who cross his corner. Corruption is everywhere and on every level:

“Survey question: how many citizens do you know who, when assaulted on the street, will call the police? A few, none; maybe one of those boys in blue who patrols the intersections of this newly democratic city? A secret cop? Not on your life. What do you want to be assaulted twice?

How big is the Mexico City police force? They say fifty-two squads. How many are officially sanctioned? How many bodyguards, paramilitary forces, armed groups associated with this or that official unit are there?

You wake up one morning with the uneasy feeling that the law of probabilities is working against you.”

Frankly I expected that Taibo’s story would be my favourite from the collection. Sorry Taibo, no hard feelings, but you come a very close second here. My first pick story is “Violeta Isn’t Here Anymore” written by Myriam Laurini, followed by Taibo’s “The Corner.” Third: (and this is because I am sucker, at least in fiction, for a really rotten dame), Bernardo Fernandez’s “Private Collection.” Yes, there’s money for some in Mexico City and this story goes to show that it’s perhaps bad for your health to question the source of great wealth.

“Violeta Isn’t Here Anymore” is interesting in part due to the fact the story unfolds via cassette tapes of recorded sessions with various witnesses in an investigation of the murder of a well-liked elderly lady. Taibo’s introduction mentions that a “shared element in the stories…is an interest in experimentation, in crossing narrative planes, points of view” and this is apparent in this diverse collection of stories which reflect the harshness and also the brittle brilliance of life in Mexico City.

These Akashic Noir collections are a great way to pick up new authors, and to complement this idea, there are brief bios of the writers at the back of the book. (Translated by Achy Obejas.)

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 2 readers
PUBLISHER: Akashic Books (February 1, 2010)
REVIEWER: Guy Savage
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Paco Ignacio Taibo II
EXTRAS: Akashic Books website
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Visit our Paco Ignacio Taibo II page

Review our review of:

Philadelphia Noir

San Francisco Noir 2

New Orleans Noir

Boston Noir

Moscow Noir


Books in the Akashic Noir Series (Alphabetical Order):

March 11, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Mexico, Mystery/Suspense, Noir, Short Stories

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