Novel set in the Dordogne
The Dead Women of Juarez
Genre(s): Fiction, Thriller
For the setting of his first novel, Hawken, an American historian, has chosen Juarez, the border city in Mexico where hundreds, even thousands, of young women have been abducted and murdered in recent years. Most of them have been students or factory workers, and their corpses show signs of torture and sexual violence. Paloma is a young woman who works with a group called Mujeres Sin Voces, a fictional outfit based on two real organisations in Juarez that campaign for justice for the victims. One of the most vivid images in the book is a telegraph pole covered in fluttering photos of missing women, with new images added every few days.
juarez is dominated by drug cartels, and Paloma’s boyfriend, kelly, is involved in the drugs trade: her brother Esteban deals in dop and Kelly helps him sell it to American tourists. Kelly is a stock character, but the sitatuion he finds himself in 9the real-life murders of women on this scale have been termed “femicide”) is highly unusual. When Paloma disappears, kelly is in a heroin-induced stupor. He surfaces to find himself one of the chief suspects, along with Esteban, and the two men soon experience the brutality of a Mexican prison (this graphically viiolent novel is not for the squeamish).
Hawken conveys the desperate atmosphere of Juarez, but it’s a pity that all his significant characters are male in a city where women are denied voices. That doesn’t stop the novel being a tense, gripping read and a plea for justice. It deserves to be read on both counts. (Joan Smith, Sunday Times)
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