‘A Death In Mexico’ looked promising, having read and loved, ‘Bad Juju’ I had high expectations for Woods’ debut. That’s the trouble with expectation; you’re indivertibly set up for disappointment. While 'A Death In Mexico' is a serviceable murder mystery laid out in police procedural fashion, it didn't captivate my attention to the extent of 'Bad Juju'.
The plot; a young gingra in Amanda Smallwood, a nude model from Texas, is found mutilated in the streets of San Migeul, Mexico. Her eyes have been gouged out and there is suspicion of rape. The body was discovered by an American couple stumbling home after consuming a little too much alcohol at the local watering hole. From there, they are faced with full frontal police corruption by means of a bribe to keep them out of the line of suspects and an overwhelming sense of something being a little left of centre in the small town. I liked the way Woods cut to the chase with the corruption angle. Not once did the author shy away from the lawmen's motives nor try to dress them as Hollywood heroes. The cops in 'A Death In Mexico' are little more than figureheads for law enforcement. The yin and yang, right and wrong was offset beautifully from the beginning. These cops have their own interests at heart and the publics second.
Central to the investigation is Inspector Hector Diaz, a somewhat shallow man who stumbles from woman to woman following an investigative logic derived from his manhood. While he wants to solve the murder, even pressure from the Mayor cant persuade him to drop his laid back, easy come easy go manner. Adding to the fact he believes his fellow cops to be incapable, the case was never going to be solved in typical fashion.
Every female is voluptuous and sex crazed, the men, a stereotype. This did tend to distract me, as every single woman was objectified in true pulp fashion. It took the glamour off of some of the more important female characters whose influence on the story warranted their oversexed persona.
'A Death in Mexico' is a police procedural with odd moments of dark humour and a deeper plot not realised until the later stages of the book. There are references to Crumley and Chandler but this book reads more like a dime-store pulp, simular in style and substance to Carter Brown rather than a hardboiled masterpiece. Make no mistake; ‘A Death In Mexico’ is a quick, and entertaining read – kind of McDonalds for the mind. It's not of the quality of 'Bad Juju' but then again, that was always going to be hard to live-up to.
My review of Bad Juju, a short story collection by Jonathan Woods can be found here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/159362076