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by Martin Solares and Heather Clearer, trans.
Grove Press/Black Cat, August 2018
440 pages
ISBN: 0802128157

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When the beautiful daughter of magnate De Leon is kidnapped in La Eternidad on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, Carlos Treviņo is hired to find her. La Eternidad is in the heart of narco-trafficking country, where three gangs are vying for control and police Chief Margarito, Treviņo's ex-boss, has it in for him.

Margarito might in fact be the kidnapper, since poorly paid cops are always looking to enhance their pay by one scheme or another. Carlos, however, is an honest ex-cop born in La Eternidad and he knows everyone in this failing tourist town.

No wonder it's failing, since kidnappings, shootouts and dead bodies "marking territory" are regular occurrences. Treviņo has taken on this job reluctantly, "where a death wish was more of an asset than deductive skill."

After a series of hair-raising attempts, Treviņo manages to find Cristina but in the ensuing shootout, he is injured, perhaps killed.

And on the next page, 223, the point of view suddenly shifts to Chief Margarito in a section entitled "Chief Margarito and the Conversation in the Dark." Is our flawless hero dead? What is chief Margarito up to? In the next 217 pages we may or may not find the answers to these questions.

Whereas Carlos Treviņo was the honest cop, almost a superhero, Margarito brings the corrupt cop to a new low. Now that he is in charge, he still seems to have the girl, but there is a new guy in town, with a black cowboy hat and an attitude to match. He is called El Colonel de los Muertos (Colonel of the Dead) and he is only one of several narcos who has plans for Margarito.

As the plot gets even thicker, the reader begins to sympathize with Margarito's plight and to wonder if he will get out of it alive. By the end we still don't know what happened to Carlos Treviņo but we do know what a hell Mexico has become.

Corruption, drug trafficking and violence of the most unsettling kind seem to rule La Eternidad and by extension, Mexico, where no one is safe, where the double cross is a way of life and death is around the next corner.

While it is difficult to shift one's sympathies from a very good guy to a very unlikeable bad guy, Solares does manage this feat. The reader is left hanging about Treviņo's fate, but the title does give an ambiguous hint.

DON'T SEND FLOWERS is not for the faint of heart. But if you can take it, you will find it an exciting ride.

§ Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, August 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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