Name of the Dog by Elmer Mendoza
|Name of the Dog by Elmer Mendoza|
|Reviewer: Denise Ramsay|
|Summary: A thrilling chase through Mexico's criminal world led by a detective you'll quickly grow to admire.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: February 2018|
|Publisher: MacLehose Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Okay, so call me a traditionalist but I enjoy picking up a book and instantly recognising the genre to which the book belongs and from here making an immediate, if not altogether accurate, assumption about whether I am likely to enjoy said book. Quite often it is not until we are fully immersed in a story we start to recognise and appreciate the style and tone of the writer and decide whether we are want to continue the story to completion. This surely is the process by which us mere reading mortals decide whether or not we enjoyed a book? Well, after reading Name of the Dog I have to be honest and say I did not know what to make of it on initial inspection. Nor have I settled my state of flux wherein I am trying to decide whether or not I really did enjoy Mendoza's tale of corruption and crime in Cartel run Mexico.
Name of the Dog is the third instalment in Mendoza's Lefty Mendieta Investigations series. In this offering the titular detective is approaching the festive season following the discovery of a teenage son he has never met, whilst hot on the trail of a murderer who is killing dentists. In addition, he happens to be putting career and life on the line assisting a cartel boss discover the identity of the person who helped spark a war between the drug lords. Not exactly partridges in pear trees then!
The book is billed on the front cover as narco-lit and Mendoza as the Godfather and founder of the genre. I had not, until now, heard of a book described as narco-lit and so really did not know what to make of it. After a bit of reading I found that the term is used to describe literature which explores drug trafficking and corruption in Latin America (Mendoza himself is present on twitter and YouTube - though mostly in Spanish - if you find yourself curious and wanting to learn more about narco-lit). Immediately authors such as Don Winslow sprang to mind and I felt I was back on familiar ground and was looking forward to reading Name of the Dog. Where it started to fall down for me however, was in the style of the writing. I am a girl who likes the boring things like paragraph breaks and quotation marks. I like being able to tell which character is speaking and when there has been a time shift or plot change. I found it really hard to do that with this book as none of the above were present much, if at all. I am not sure whether this is a quirk of Mendoza's writing or if the problem lies in the book's translation into English. Whatever the reason, I have to say it all started to become a bit surreal and hard to follow. This may say more about me as a reader than Mendoza's abilities as a writer, but nonetheless, it did hamper my enjoyment of the book. The story itself was strong and I actually warmed to the disorganised and lugubrious Lefty - a character I could easily see on the small screen. The character of Ugarte was also brilliant and offered a chance for Mendoza to play with the assumptions and pre-conceived ideas of the reader. Ultimately though, I'm not sure I'm quite ready to fully embrace a series where the parameters of style and content are not clearly defined. To coin a phrase I think I'm just too 'old school'.
However, if, like half of the country you've been glued to Netflix with series such as Narcos and El Chapo then I think you'll really enjoy this. The machismo of the cartels, the disillusionment of the police and collusion of the military are all familiar territory and are well explored by Mendoza with the odd surprise provided such as a female cartel boss at the heart of the story whose gumption and conniving matches any of the male characters. Lefty the detective, is the classic antihero of literature and is attractive despite himself so eliciting quick good will and a sense of comradery from the reader. If you're less set in your ways than me then I certainly think this book and series are worth a read - just give yourself a few chapters to acclimatise!
If you found yourself enjoying Name of the Dog and would like to read similar titles then I would recommend The Dead Women of Juarez by Sam Hawken looking at the mysteries surrounding the female victims of Mexico's border wars.
You can read more book reviews or buy Name of the Dog by Elmer Mendoza at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Name of the Dog by Elmer Mendoza at Amazon.com.
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