Tequila Sunset by Sam Hawken

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Tequila Sunset by Sam Hawken

Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: Well plotted, fast moving gangland story spanning the US/Mexico border. Be prepared for some violent scenes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: November 2012
Publisher: Serpent's Tail
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781846688539

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Sam Hawken's Tequila Sunset is a gang land crime novel set across the border between the US and Mexico. The story centres on three people: Flip Morales is a young Latino American who gets somewhat unwillingly caught up in the Barrio Azteca gang after a stint in prison; Cristina Salas is an El Paso police officer - a single mother with an autistic child; and Matías Segura is a Mexican federal agent based in Ciudad Juárez with marriage issues. When the FBI launch a sting to catch the Azteca gang, all three will become involved with each other in a struggle against violence.

Tequila Sunset has many similarities with Hawken's first novel, The Dead Women of Juarez but also some notable differences. Style-wise, Hawken's short chapters and short sentences keep the pace fast moving much like in Dead Women, and the setting and general issues are similar of course, although Tequila Sunset is set more in El Paso than in Mexico. There's also similar gripping intensity and moments of violence.

However, while Dead Women tackled a very specific issue, that of the extreme number of female homicides in Juárez, Tequila Sunset is more general in the issues of gangland culture and arms for drugs trade. And while I'm still haunted by the memory of the gruelling, angry, dark intensity of reading Dead Women, his second novel contains more light as well as shade and is more balanced as a result. That's not to suggest Hawken has gone soft - he hasn't. There's still plenty of graphic violence when it is needed, but he lets in more space for personal issues here.

It's a fast moving and well plotted story. The brevity of the chapters means that the reader can keep up with the three different strands of the story throughout with ease, even when the story gets increasingly complex. He also throws in some nice, unexpected twists. And while few of the characters are wholly likeable, they are all believable and you end up rooting for each of them at different times. Flip in particular gets unwittingly caught up in events and evokes some sympathy as he tries to do the right thing in impossible circumstances.

Hawken has clearly researched his subject very well and one thing that comes over particularly strongly is the problems faced not only by the Latino youth on both sides of the border, but also the issues faced by the authorities in working together to reduce the problems rather than merely moving it across the border. He portrays the different approaches but also the different challenges faced by the authorities north and south of the Mexican border. The less action packed passages of the book evoke well the waiting game that the authorities are forced to play.

Be prepared for some graphic violence, but this is very strong crime fiction and Hawken continues to deliver.

Our grateful thanks to the kind people at Serpent's Tail for sending us this latest Sam Hawken book.

If you haven't already read The Dead Women of Juarez you probably should to see why it was shortlisted for the CWA Dagger prize.

Buy Tequila Sunset by Sam Hawken at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tequila Sunset by Sam Hawken at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Tequila Sunset by Sam Hawken at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tequila Sunset by Sam Hawken at Amazon.com.


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