City Without Stars – Tim Baker
In Ciudad Real, Mexico, a deadly war between rival cartels is erupting, and hundreds of female sweat-shop workers are being murdered. As his police superiors start shutting down his investigation, Fuentes suspects most of his colleagues are on the payroll of narco kingpin, El Santo.
Meanwhile, despairing union activist, Pilar, decides to take social justice into her own hands. But if she wants to stop the killings, she’s going to have to ignore all her instincts and accept the help of Fuentes. When the name of Mexico’s saintly orphan rescuer, Padre Márcio, keeps resurfacing, Pilar and Fuentes begin to realise how deep the cover-up goes.
My thanks to Lauren at Faber for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour
I am not sure I have the language to do City Without Stars justice. If I were to say: Powerful, Magnificent, Majestic, Breathtaking then it would sound like I was describing a racehorse rather than Tim Baker’s novel. Yet City Without Stars is all those things, it is an incredible piece of story telling written with a brutal beauty and an incredible intensity.
The first word I used was “powerful” and City Without Stars is all about power. In Mexico there seem to be many battles to be fought and through the story we shall follow some of the fighters. The drug Kingpin – El Santo – casts the longest shadow, he has the money, the men and the merchandise and he will do whatever he wants (and he does). It is not often that I will flinch at something I read but one scene in particular brought out a full body wince/jolt, the unexpected sudden brutality was shocking.
Faith has a strong grip over Mexican life too and it was no surprise to see that Padre Márcio was influential throughout the book. The link between church and corruption has been made in the past but Tim Baker shines the Mexican sun fully onto the worst behaviours of the church and its representatives. Padre Márcio gets the most detailed backstory, his position in the community explained by his path to adulthood and the trials he endured.
Where there are drugs there will also be police. Fuentes is the cop who wants to bring some justice to proceedings. Yet he knows the challenge he faces is enormous and he can have no faith in the integrity of his colleagues, many are in the pockets of the cartel and few will stand up and be seen to challenge the corruption.
The character who faced the biggest challenge is a young union actvist (Pilar). In the opening pages we see she has been targeted as a potential threat to someone in power and action is being taken to quash that threat. Pilar is seeking a fairer deal and better treatment for the women working in the manufacturing plants, the women who work for a pittance, have no respect from the men that run the plants and who meekly accept their lot in life. She is an extraordinary force but knows that changing the accepted way will not be simple. Her struggle to be heard and to make an impact which cannot be ignored was an important balance to the violence and intensity of the rival drug dealers.
There is so much depth and detail in City Without Stars that I cannot even begin to scratch the surface in a short review. It is a dark, dark read. The violence is brutal, the corruption is rife and the people are generally untrustworthy and unlikeable. But it all makes for utterly compelling reading.
City Without Stars is published by Faber & Faber and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/City-Without-Stars-Tim-Baker-ebook/dp/B075RSLG2B/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516314849&sr=1-1&keywords=city+without+stars