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Ten Great Books set in MEXICO

11th December 2021

Mexico is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great Books set in…’ series. Ten great books set in Mexico. Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico.

‘Si quieres conocer a Inés, vive con ella un mes’ – ‘You don’t truly know a person until you live with them’. Mexican saying

Follow Me In by Katriona Chapman

Recounting a life-changing trip to Mexico, Follow Me In is Kat Chapman’s memoir and coming-of-age story, interspersed with pages of her travel sketchbook and her explorations of the mosaic of cultural and bio-diversity that make Mexico such a special place. More than that, Follow Me In is a love letter to a fascinating, alluring and richly-varied country and the story of a difficult but loving relationship between the two lead characters.

With no responsibilities and nothing to tie her down, Kat has no idea what the next step is. She’s an artist who hasn’t drawn in over five years. She’s lost. What’s more, she’s been avoiding admitting what everyone else knows: her boyfriend, Richard, has an alcohol problem. Looking for a fresh start, the two embark on an adventure to Mexico, where their experiences change both of their lives. For Kat, that means rediscovering her love for art, forming a lifelong attachment to Mexico and finally finding the strength to move on.

Follow Me In is as much a vivid, brilliantly-realised journey through Mexico as it is a journey through the heart and soul of an inspiring creator whose cultural observations and style of travel writing are fresh and unique. It undoubtedly seals Katriona Chapman’s place as one of the best illustrators working in the UK today.

The Trumpet Lesson by Dianne Romain

When Callie Quinn became pregnant at seventeen in 1960s rural Missouri, her outraged father, with her mother’s acquiescence, insisted that no one know–and Callie complied. She went away, and she gave up her baby. But not for their reasons. She did it to protect the baby’s father–a black teen–from the era’s racist violence. Decades later, now a translator in Mexico, Callie and her closeted gay friend, Armando, search for his missing dog. Worried that Armando will lose his Paris love, too, if he doesn’t come out, Callie invents a tale of her fiancé’s inconvenient death in his closet. Meanwhile, her true losses remain as hidden as the river that winds beneath Guanajuato’s historic center. When Pamela, a musician whose music flows from her heart, enters Callie’s life, Callie takes up the trumpet–and begins to dream of opening her own heart. But instead she remains silent, hiding her longing and risking giving up everyone she dares to love in order to safeguard her secret. Callie tells herself she does so to protect her daughter, but ultimately, in order to speak, she must confront the deepest reasons for her silence–the ones she’s been concealing even from herself.

Bandit Roads by Richard Grant

There are many ways to die in the Sierra Madre, a notorious nine-hundred-mile mountain range in northern Mexico where AK-47s are fetish objects, the law is almost non-existent and power lies in the hands of brutal drug mafias. Thousands of tons of opium and marijuana are produced there every year. Richard Grant thought it would be a good idea to travel the length of the Sierra Madre and write a book about it. He was warned before he left that he would be killed. But driven by what he calls ‘an unfortunate fascination’ for this mysterious region, Grant sets off anyway. In a remarkable piece of investigative writing, he evokes a sinister, surreal landscape of lonely mesas, canyons sometimes deeper than the Grand Canyon, hostile villages and an outlaw culture where homicide is the most common cause of death and grandmothers sell cocaine. Finally his luck runs out and he finds himself fleeing for his life, pursued by men who would murder a stranger in their territory ‘to please the trigger finger’.

Getaway by Lisa Brackmann

Michelle Mason tells herself she’s on vacation. A brief stay in the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a chance to figure out her next move after the unexpected death of her banker husband, who’s left behind a scandal and a pile of debt. The trip was already paid for, and it beats crashing in her sister’s spare room. When a good-looking man named Daniel approaches her on the beach, the margaritas have kicked in and she decides: why not?

But the date doesn’t go as either of them planned. An assault on Daniel in her hotel room, switched cell phones and an encounter with a “friend” of Daniel’s named Gary gets Michelle enmeshed in a covert operation involving drug runners, goons, and venture capitalists. Michelle already knows she’s caught in a dangerous trap. But she quickly finds that running is not an option. If she’s not careful, she’ll end up buried in the town dump, with the rest of the trash. Now she needs to fight smart if she wants to survive her vacation.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

The number one bestseller in Mexico and America for almost two years, and subsequently a bestseller around the world, Like Water For Chocolate is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness, bittersweet wit – and recipes.

A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her. For the next twenty-two years Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.

Narcoland by Anabel Hernandez

The product of five years of investigative reporting, the subject of intense national controversy, and the source of death threats that forced the National Human Rights Commission to assign two full-time bodyguards to Anabel Hernández, Narcoland has been a publishing and political sensation in Mexico. The definitive history and anatomy of the drug cartels and the “war on drugs” that has cost more than 50,000 lives in just five years, the book explains in riveting detail how Mexico became a base for the mega- cartels of Latin America and one of the most violent places on the planet. At every turn, Hernández names names – not just the narcos, but also the politicians, functionaries, judges and entrepreneurs who have collaborated with them. In doing so, she reveals the stunning corruption of Mexico’s government and business elite. Hernández became a journalist after her father was kidnapped and killed and the police refused to investigate without a bribe. She gained prominence in 2001 with her exposure of pharaonic spending at the presidential palace. Her previous books have also focused on corruption at the summit of power, under presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón.

The Dead Women of Juarez by Sam Hawken

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.

The Hidden Light of Mexico City by Carmen Amato

Mexico City attorney Eddo Cortez Castillo’s unexpected relationship with housemaid Luz de Maria Alba Mora becomes a dangerous vulnerability when he investigates links between the Minister for Public Security and Mexico’s most elusive drug cartel leader. But what Eddo doesn’t know is that Luz is trapped at the bottom of Mexico’s ladder of inequality, where broken dreams and family poverty have brought her to the breaking point.
As presidential elections near, Eddo’s investigation will uncover a political double-cross fueled by blood money and drug cartels. With the help of a secret police network, he’ll follow the trail as it twists and turns through a maze of smuggling and money laundering right up to the Mexican border with the United States. There he’ll find the beating heart of Mexico’s drug culture, where violence buys loyalty, votes are for sale, the odds are against survival, and only a woman whose name means Light of Mary can guide him out.

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C M Mayo

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is a sweeping historical novel of Mexico during the short, tragic, at times surreal, reign of Emperor Maximilian and his court. Even as the American Civil War raged north of the border, a clique of Mexican conservative exiles and clergy convinced Louis Napoleon to invade Mexico and install the Archduke of Austria, Maximilian von Habsburg, as Emperor. A year later, the childless Maximilian took custody of the two year old, half-American, Prince Agustín de Iturbide y Green, making the toddler the Heir Presumptive. Maximilian’s reluctance to return the child to his distraught parents, even as his empire began to fall, and the Empress Carlota descended into madness, ignited an international scandal. This lush, grand read is based on the true story and illuminates both the cultural roots of Mexico and the political development of the Americas. But it is made all the more captivating by the depth of Mayo’s writing and her understanding of the pressures and influences on these all too human players.

The Summer of Secrets by Alison Lucy

One heady summer. Three big secrets.

1989: Newlyweds Danny and Harriet arrive at their honeymoon paradise in the Caribbean. Days later Harriet returns home. Danny is left distraught but finds comfort in the arms of two women. Nine months later, three baby girls are born…

2010: Megan leaves her childhood sweetheart behind in the UK to go in search of her long-lost father. Miles from home and temptation is at every corner – not least in the arms of the gorgeous Ray…

Esmé, a Mexican beauty, married Miguel at fifteen. In unlocking the secrets of her past, can she shed the shackles of her enforced marriage?

Claudia has led a life of privilege but she’s never really known what it feels like to be loved. Could David be the answer? Or will he disappoint her, just like her mother always did?

Three women set off on an adventure to uncover the secrets surrounding their missing father. It may be the only way to lay their demons to rest but seeking out the truth could tear their lives apart.

We hope you enjoy our selection of books set in Mexico. Have we included your favourites? Please tell us in the ~Comments below..

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