|Flesh and Blood: True Fiction by Marcus Dalrymple|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: An excellent follow up to the well-received Killing Time: True Fiction and an enlightening read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 350||Date: April 2015|
Brit John Colson is in Mexico teaching, having been invited out there by his godfather and local school owner Carlos Manuel Fermin. John soon settles in, soon forming a love of the country. But then it all changes… Visiting a public toilet at the wrong moment means that John hears a murder being committed beyond his cubicle door. He goes to the police as he would in the UK but this is Mexico; from that moment on John Colson is a marked man. Meanwhile elsewhere in Mexico tourists are being attracted by more than hot sunshine and tacos.
Marcus Dalrymple the South-American-born British author who gave us Killing Time as his debut is back with another novel taking us to the edge of our seats. We return to Mexico where his first hero, James Brown, was kidnapped. However this time we meet a TEFL teacher who faces a different fate. Rather than kidnap and ransom, the plan is to kill young Mr Colson outright, only the date and means are up for discussion. Meanwhile elsewhere in the Mexican wastelands a different sort of crime beckons, but more of that one later.
We get the idea that Marcus isn't exactly an extension of the Mexican tourist board pretty early on as he understands and communicates the dangerous, seamy side of a complex and very angry nation. Once again we witness the two sides of Mexico: the squalid poverty of the many and the acquisitive wealth of the few along with the resulting desperate fight of the poor to attain and the rich to retain. In this instance 'fight' means armed struggle which in turn means fatal chaos riddling the authorities, right down to the police on the street.
Marcus opens our eyes to this with his trademark, almost documentary, asides. While the action and suspense pull us in, there's a background voice-over narrative cropping up from time to time explaining an aspect of historical background or facet of local culture. It would be very easy to spoil a story with such sidebars but Marcus manages to enrich rather than break the thrall. There's also a second fusion going on; a fascinating fusion of storylines.
This is a novel for those who love various cast members being introduced in various situations and then watching how they're woven together. (There are only a few of each so no need to fear confuddlement or distraction.) Marcus is rather good at this, playing with our assumptions so well that at one stage I found myself gasping as the connection materialised.
To name but a few (and going back to that second plotline as promised) there are Barkov (a Russian agent who was active in Afghanistan) and ex US marine Paul Binyon as well as a business man who as a child realised that he got high on the smell and feel of blood and some tourists who wouldn't be happy with a week in Benidorm. Blood? Oh yes, this does get very bloody and violent within context. In fact their stories are so good that gradually John becomes a side show by comparison. The net result is that our hearts beat faster and our allegiances waiver back and forth.
This may only be the author's second novel but the lessons he's learning show. Flesh and Blood isn't as obviously signposted as the debut, providing a greater element of surprise and raising the excitement stakes rather.
Hopefully Marcus won't stop here. Whether his future holds another Mexican inspired gripper or he reaps inspiration from elsewhere, one feels that this is a writer getting into his stride. I for one am looking forward where that – and he – takes us.
(Thank you very much to the author for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: Please read Killing Time if you haven't already as it provides more background to the country as well as highlighting their kidnap problem. If you're already a fan and would like to read more of the dark side of Mexico from other sources, we also recommend The Dead Women of Juarez by Sam Hawken.
You can read more book reviews or buy Flesh and Blood: True Fiction by Marcus Dalrymple at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Flesh and Blood: True Fiction by Marcus Dalrymple at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.