January 19

City Without Stars – Tim Baker

The only thing more dangerous than the cartels is the truth…

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.

Gobsmackingly Good.

 

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

 

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January 29

Fever City – Tim Baker

Fever City Nick Alston, a Los Angeles private investigator, is hired to find the kidnapped son of America’s richest and most hated man.

Hastings, a mob hitman in search of redemption, is also on the trail. But both men soon become ensnared by a sinister cabal that spreads from the White House all the way to Dealey Plaza.

Decades later in Dallas, Alston’s son stumbles across evidence from JFK conspiracy buffs that just might link his father to the shot heard round the world.

Violent, vivid, visceral: FEVER CITY is a high–octane, nightmare journey through a Mad Men-era America of dark powers, corruption and conspiracy.

 

My thanks to Faber & Faber for my review copy.

 

My friends will groan when they find I have read a book with a conspiracy theory element to it as I love ‘em. Roswell, the Moon Landings, JFK and Nessie all provide hours of fascination. Obviously from the 4 I listed one is a total fabrication of the truth but I am quite happy to believe that there was a UFO at Roswell, JFK was not killed by Lee Harvey Oswald and I have seen pictures of Nessie so she clearly is a real thing too.

In Fever City Tim Baker has crafted a phenomenal story around the JFK assassination – putting forward new observations and casting more suspicions over the ‘official’ story on the death of a President. Many famous names crop up through the story and relationships, alliances and adversaries are explored.  It is a compelling read and as I reached the end of the book I could not turn the pages fast enough to see how everything would resolve.

The narrative is handled from three viewpoints and events cover three different points in history. 1960 when the child of one of America’s richest (and most loathed) men is kidnapped – Private Investigator Nick Alston is called in to help locate the kidnapped boy.

Jumping forward to 1963 when Alston is reunited with a hitman called Hastings (the two had first met during the kidnap investigation). Obviously 1963 is of huge significance and we follow events which will eventually build up to that fateful day in Dallas.

fever-city-_-blog-tour-graphicThen the narrative jumps forward to 2014 when the son of one of the key players (that of Nick Alston) is looking into all the theories which surround the assassination of JFK. As Fever City progresses Alston (junior) comes to realise that his father may have been very close to some of the key players who are implicated in one of history’s greatest cover-ups.

The switching narrative is brilliantly handled and the way the story flits across the time periods works really well. I initially had fears that this may fragment the story but these fears were short lived as Baker builds so much tension into the story you don’t mind being drawn through the years.

Fever City should come with a ‘dark’ or ‘gritty’ warning. The male characters can come across as hard, uncompromising or aggressive and the females are brilliantly balanced initially appearing to be femme fatales but ultimately showing more depth and inner steel than most of their male counterparts.

A deeply enjoyable story. Compelling, twisty and downright nasty at times. All plus points for me – definitely a bit of a favourite.

 

Fever City is published by Faber & Faber and can be purchased here.

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