“He’s got enough money to wrap it around him like a shield” sums this book up beautifully, where money begets power, and some will do anything to get their hands on it, or keep it.
A great read and a fantastic murder mystery which does a great job of pushing you away from the murderer’s identity without cheating, wrapped up in Mexican corruption from the mayor at the top and crazed gangs at the bottom. If you have any interest in what’s happening in Mexico you should lap this book up. With a tough and vulnerable main character, Emilia Cruz, a detective thrust into the top job ahead of her readiness, the book makes your stomach tighten as the story progresses. Not only does she have to worry about finding who killed a top detective in her department, she has to worry about the cartels, politicians, and her own colleagues. Where many detective novels have a hard-ass making life difficult for the protagonist, they are often merely incompetents or just making political manoeuvres. They’re annoying, and you hope the character overcomes their pettiness, but in Cliff Diver, Emilia not only has to deal with male colleagues who resent her presence as a female, she has to deal with the very real fear that one or more might just be paid-up members of a murderous cartel. Which colleague do you talk to? And about what? It gives the story real edge. Of course, that would mean nothing without great supporting characters, of which there are many: from the shadowy Obregon who heads the police union and wants a political solution, to a mayor who wants to bring the Olympics to Acapulco and so wants solutions that keep the city’s sheen intact.
Themes run throughout. Mexicans in the book often live their lives in perpetual suspicion, whereas her would-be norteamericano (Kurt) lover exudes confidence, a contrast not in racial stereotypes, but political stability on either side of the border. What could have been too much description in more staid novels, is here used perfectly to contrast Emilia’s poor upbringing to that of the city’s (and Kurt’s) rich lives. Here are detectives busting a gut on relatively low pay, where money is always a temptation to go over to the dark side – to live the life they see complacent tourists living.
The story drips with authentic dialogue too. I love how two cops say the same phrase to Emilia: “Use him before he uses you.” It goes for most of the police around her, and you feel her hands in that dark tunnel flailing to find trust.
There are a few typos, but nothing that gets in the way of a book which climaxes in a devastating conclusion which feels like a punch to the stomach.
I’ll read everything this author writes after this.