Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Gripping "Border Noir" from James Carlos Blake

Billed as "A Border noir," this is a testosterone-driven wild ride of a novel. As it opens, a group of audacious kidnappers grabs several members of a wealthy wedding party from a mansion in Mexico City. They divide the members of the party into two groups and take them to separate run-down houses in the city's slums. The man in charge of the operation is an young gangster named El Galan, who has ambitions of using this kidnapping as a stepping stone to climb up the ladder of organized crime in Mexico.

El Galan contacts the parents of the young people he has kidnapped and demands five million American dollars for their safe return. He gives the parents very careful instructions about how to raise and deliver the money and gives them twenty-four hours to pay up. As one might expect, he warns the parents that if they contact the authorities, he will kill the kidnapped victims.

El Galan warns the parents that he will be monitoring their every move and insists that he has contacts within the police department who will alert him if the parents should violate his mandate not to call the police. This being Mexico City, this might well be the case, and the parents insist that they will follow El Galan's instructions to the letter. They simply want their children back safely.

What the kidnappers do not know is that one of members of the wedding party, a bridesmaid named Jessica Juliet Wolfe, is actually unrelated to any of the others. She is a close friend of the bride-to-be and belongs to a criminal family known as the House of Wolfe, with operations on both sides of the border. Jessica is from the American side of the family and when the Wolfe's get word that she has been kidnapped, several members of her family fly south to join the Mexican side of the family in an effort to rescue Jessica.

The Wolfes realize that, in all likelihood, once the kidnappers have their money, they will release the victims unharmed. But, of course, maybe they won't, and that is the fear that drives them to attempt the rescue. Jessica herself is no passive victim, which further complicates the situation.

The result is a story that hurtles from the kidnapping to a surprising climax. Blake has created a believable and very scary vision of Mexico City and populated it with a cast of well-drawn and intriguing characters. The Wolfes, in particular, make for compelling protagonists. This is a great read that will appeal to anyone who likes dark, hard-charging crime novels.

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