A while ago I read Fever City which was a fascinating portrayal of the Kennedy era (review here) Therefore I was delighted to be asked to join the blog tour for his latest novel City Without Stars.
City Without Stars is described as an epic novel. Which I have to say would normally put me off as I find in the film world that just means overly long. However I’m glad I hadn’t seen that before I agreed to read it as this was absolutely fascinating and certainly not too long.
The novel is based in Ciudad Real, Mexico where a deadly war is erupting between rival drug cartels. Alongside this, hundreds of female sweatshop workers are being murdered, which policeman Fuentes believes is linked to the main drug lord El Santo. Activist Pilar is trying to take matters into her own hands and arranging protests at the sweatshops to try and improve conditions and make people take the killings seriously. She starts working with Fuentes and also gets involved with journalist Ventura. As they investigate further the name that keeps arising is that of the Padre Marcio, a local hero who is known for his work with orphans. No one wants to believe that he can be involved, yet there is evidence they can’t ignore.
This was an interesting read. It’s certainly not one for the feint hearted. As with Tim Baker’s previous novel, this is a story that intertwines fact and fiction to create a fascinating insight into a corrupt and dangerous society. It is a violent novel, by necessity, as the world it is depicting is cruel and harsh. Yet it is also a story of hope and good trying to overcome evil.
Mainly the story is told with chapters focussing on the main characters. Yet they are also interspersed with other personalities and scenes including some women who end up victims. However despite the many characters, it is easy to keep track of and I felt the writing flowed easily. For me, one of the strengths of the novel is the portrayal of the females within it. Despite the high number of victims, there are also some incredibly strong characters that are standing up for change throughout immensely difficult circumstances.
This is an incredibly evocative novel, that is disturbing yet captivating at the same time. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a powerful story with characters that will stay with you long after the final page.