My ‘To Read’ Pile – Revisited.

A while back I posted a blog about my ‘to read’ pile – see here. For quick reference, here’s the pile;

I’ve now read the top three books, and have just started the fourth one down, The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy. By the way, I didn’t intend to read them in that top-down order, it just worked out that way. I’m not obsessive like that, honestly, it’s pure coincidence.

As I wrote in the first blog about these books, The Prow Beast by Robert Low is the last in The Oathsworn series about a band of Vikings, following their saga through the early middle ages. Lee Child’s Worth Dying For is a book from the Jack Reacher series, and is the first of Child’s books I’d ever read. I bought the Robert Low novel because I enjoyed the series and wanted to finish the saga, and I bought the Lee Child novel because I wanted to read a fast paced crime novel (and stea… learn some techniques from his writing). But The Dead Women of Juarez by Sam Hawken I bought on pure impulse in Waterstones because it looked interesting on the pile of books they insist on heaping up like funeral pires in their shops.

And it was this book I was most impressed with. I love picking up a random novel and loving every word of it, and it’s even more of a delight when it doesn’t come via a recommendation or a Richard & Judy/Oprah Book Club promotion. Briefly, The Dead Women of Juarez is about a washed-up American boxer who is scraping a living in the Mexican border town of Juarez. His Mexican girlfriend works for an organisation that seeks justice for Juarez’s many female kidnappings and homicides, and it’s through this angle that the book gets darker and more intriguing. Once the washed-up boxer falls foul of the criminals and corrupt police of Juarez after his girlfriend is raped and murdered, it falls to an equally washed-up cop to find out what is going on.

This book is well written and thought-provoking, dark but engaging at the same time, which is no mean feat. The chapters are short and choppy, lending themselves perfectly to the cinematic pace and feel of the novel. I read an Amazon review that suggested it would make a really good basis for a film, and would have to agree. It’s dirty and washed out, just like the Mexican town in which it is set. The novel has just the right amount of moral observation to make it thought-provoking without being too dictatorial, but overall it ticks all the right boxes for me in terms of pace and style. Bits of it reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s writing, probably the border-land setting and economical prose. I also liked the fact that not all the loose ends are tied up, it had the right amount of conclusion without feeling the need to make it ‘happy ever after’ – as such an ending would simply feel wrong.

The author is at pains to point out in the Afterword that while his book is a work of fiction, Juarez does indeed have a huge problem with female kidnapping, rape and murder. A sober reminder behind the novel’s fictional setting. I thoroughly recommend this book.

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