The Black Minutes, by Martín Solares

I saw this book hanging out in the “new mysteries” section of my library, and I was completely drawn in by the cover. And then I skimmed through the jacket flap and discovered that the author is from Mexico and said, “Hey! Orbis Terrarum book! Excellent!” So I grabbed it.

What a tough book. It starts off with a three-page cast of characters, many of whom have not just a given name but also a nickname (or two). I was glad for these pages later in the novel when I was like, “Who are these people? Is this guy that guy from before? No? Who the heck is he?”

It’s also tough because the mystery at the beginning, which is all interesting and stuff, is actually a frame story for a mystery from twenty years earlier which takes up most of the book. So then when it’s time to get back to the present, you get a bit of whiplash. The novel is broken up into three “books” to delineate these times, but it’s still a little confusing.

And, for even more fun, the book switches from third person to first person (with different first people) on a regular basis, and there are a couple of weird dream-sequence-type things that I’m not sure about. I’m not up on the literature from Mexico, so maybe this is a thing? Or maybe it’s just Solares’ thing. I don’t know.

But, regardless, the story — especially the 20-years-ago mystery — was incredibly interesting and engaging. It reminded me of Tana French‘s novels in that the mystery is good, but the novel is about so much more than that. In Solares’ case, his novel is really about corruption in the Mexican government and police and everywhere, really, and how a man trying to stay uncorrupted can deal with all of that and even, later, how a corrupt man can deal with all of that. Solares does a great job of showing how rampant corruption is, and today, a few days after finishing the book, I’m still feeling a little paranoid. I think that’s a sign of an excellent storyteller.

Recommendation: Check this out if you like your mysteries with a little more literary slant, like Tana French’s, and have some time to spend reading this through slowly. This is not a novel you’ll get through in a day.

Rating: 8/10
(RIP Challenge, Orbis Terrarum Challenge: Mexico, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

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Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

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