Mexico City's one-eyed HECTOR BELASCOARÁN SHAYNE (his mother was Irish) is a rather philosophical gumshoe, obsessed with politics, who shares his office with an upholsterer, a plumber and a sewage engineer, which gives him ample opportunity to air his views. Introspective, cynical, and fatalistic to a fault, he's an interesting addition to the genre, offering a fresh setting and a world-view that's worlds away from the standard PI novel, with some definitely surreal touches, In one novel, he's even killed off, only to return in the next one, Return To The Same City, with no apologies from Taibo, although he does offer an explanation of sorts:
"His appearance in these pages is therefore an act of magic. White magic perhaps, but magic that is irrational and disrespectful toward the occupation of writing a mystery series. ... As always, it must be said that the story told here belongs to the terrain of absolute fiction, although Mexico is the same and belongs to the terrain of surprising reality."
Turns out too many readers complained that Hector had been killed off, and the author realized he had a few stories still in him to tell about this character.
Plenty more, it turns out. The subsequent The Uncomfortable Dead (2006) may be the most surreal and political book yet. Co-written with Subcomandante Marcos, a real-life spokesperson for Mexico's Zapatista movement, it swings between a complex case involving Hector, Elías Contreras, a detective for the Zapatista National Liberation Army, a government-backed murderer and assorted ghosts -- one who may be leaving messages on Hectoir's answering machine -- with arguments for the rights of indigenous peoples and rants against globalization and privatization. Of course, this being typical Taibo, the dead just don't stay dead, characters occasionally step outside of the book to discuss their progress and co-author Marcos even writes himself into the story. But the strangest thing about this unapologetic, politically charged story was actually nominated for a Shamus in 2007.
Author, journalist, historian, and short story writer Paco Ignacio Taibo, II was born in Spain but lives in Mexico. He's had several novels published; but is best known for his mystery series with Shayne. In fact, he's one of the most popular Mexican authors writing around these days. He's also one of the major forces behind the International Crime Writers Association "Semana Negra" held every summer in Gijon, Spain, a ten-day festival that brings together writers of the "novela negra" from around the world.
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