Martín Solares follows up The Black Minutes with Don't Send Flowers, another unpredictable descent into a region of Mexico teetering on the edge of complete lawlessness. It is reminiscent of Don Winslow's dark thrillers The Power of the Dog and The Cartel in its emphasis on the miseries wrought by the drug trade, but Solares's focus is firmly on the Mexican side of the border. His novel, translated from Spanish by Heather Cleary, centers on the all-too-common crime of kidnapping in the Gulf town of Ciudad Miel. In this case, the missing girl has a powerful father who convinces retired police detective Carlos Treviño to help find his daughter before it's too late.
Don't Send Flowers follows Treviño's painstaking investigation into the kidnapping. Treviño has a history with the local police that ended with his torture and desperate escape, so he has to dodge the cops as well as two cartels warring over territory. The scope of the story is complicated by surprising tangents and perspective shifts. Few characters seem untouched by what they refer to as "the trade": "Throw a rock and you'll hit someone living off the cartels, sometimes without even knowing it." Politicians, business owners, even the military are implicated. And Solares is unafraid to look through the eyes of borderline villainous characters, taking readers deep into the calculations and moral compromises they've made to stay alive or even prosper in what increasingly seems like a modern Wild West.
Revealing more would spoil the plot, but suffice to say that throughout the book's bold narrative choices, Solares maintains a deft touch for suspense. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.