Thursday, December 28, 2017

Mezcalero by T.E. Wilson (#transgender #mystery)

As the year comes to a close, I find myself looking back at all the stories I somehow never got to, and feeling horribly guilty about it . . . so this week I am tackling the review pile from the bottom, catching up on my oldest reads, and doing my best to celebrate them as they deserve.

Mezcalero was an odd book. It is a hard-boiled detective novel with some quirky elements and scattered elements of dark humor, but overall it is dark and grim. T.E. Wilson certainly has a unique voice, one that is sure to appeal to fans of the genre, but I have to be honest - I struggled with it.

I came to the novel by way of Ernesto, the detective protagonist, a transgender man with a dual Canadian-Mexican heritage. His gender does not drive the narrative - his transition is in the past - but it is a key aspect of his character. He is interesting, a properly flawed noir protagonist, but with his addictions and his self-destructive nature, hard to like.

The mystery itself is paced well, with some great details, and the settings around Mexico are a fascinating mix of paradise and nightmare. You get a real feel for Mexican culture, and despite its darkness and hard-edges, there is still an appeal to the land.

In the end, I was interested enough to finish the read - I could not walk away without seeing the mystery solved - but I doubt I would be up for a sequel.

TE Wilson is the author of the Detective Sánchez series of crime novels. Much of the inspiration for the novels comes from Wilson’s experience in Latin America. These include a stint as a human rights observer in post-conflict Guatemala with the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), and his work as a journalist, which has taken him from the high Sierras to the depths of Mexico’s prison system. He has reported from Mexico for the Globe and Mail, the CBC, CTV, Toronto Star,, and InSight Crime, among other news outlets. For his non-fiction writing he has received a CBC Canadian Literary Award (first) and a National Magazine Award (gold).


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