The Acid Test by Elmer Mendoza

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The Acid Test by Elmer Mendoza

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Megan Kenny
Reviewed by Megan Kenny
Summary: The Acid Test is a blood-soaked juggernaut raining down a hail of bullets on the genre of 'Narco-Lit'. The Narcos, police and FBI are all trying to solve the murder of a mysterious, beautiful dancer, a brutal crime which triggered a domino effect of murder and mayhem. If you like your crime brutal and your narrative less than traditional, this is the Test for you.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: December 2016
Publisher: MacLehose Press
ISBN: 978-0857052612

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Mayra Cabral de Melo is dead. Murdered in cold blood in a desolate, dusty field by the side of the road. Once the most adored, celebrated dancer at the local strip club, she had a collection of rich and powerful admirers but who amongst them was deluded and dangerous enough to kill her? And what connects her to the deaths of various associates, arms dealers and Narco kingpins? Lefty Mendieta returns in The Acid Test, following on from Mendoza's first novel Silver Bullets. I haven't read the first instalment of this series and don't believe that had any impact on this story. Lefty has a personal connection to the case, forever haunted by the memories of his brief but life changing night with Mayra and uses his connections to the powerful criminal underworld, his tense relationship with American agents and his consuming desire to avenge her death to track down this violent and deranged killer. Along the way we learn about the growing tensions between Narcos which erupt in explosive levels of violence, meet a host of damaged, humorous and violent residents of Culiacán and follow Lefty on a trail of destruction, death and disorder.

My difficulties with The Acid Test were the vast number of characters and the less than traditional narrative. A character list is provided at the start which lists 88 individual characters. Now, of course, by the end of this bloody tale that number has greatly reduced but it is still a lot of names to keep track of and so I would recommend reading the list thoroughly before starting the book. In terms of style, the book is essentially written in long stretches of text with dialogue interspersed with the rest of the narrative and no punctuation to discern who is speaking when and often to whom. This can be disorientating and may be off-putting to readers. I can't deny that it makes the story confusing at points because it is hard to follow the conversations, but it is an interesting alternative to traditional story-telling and so I would encourage readers to try it and experience something new.

Despite those minor issues, The Acid Test is a fine meditation on the often-discussed machismo culture prevalent in Mexico and demonstrates in vivid detail the effect this culture has on violence towards women. The female characters here are either revered for behaving 'like men' in terms of committing acts of violence or for their desirability and sexual attractiveness. Character development is minimal and it is often felt that the women only exist, at least in terms of the victim at the heart of this book, to act as a catalyst for male bravado and violence whilst being defined solely by the fact that she drives all men to such irresponsible passion that someone has been unable to avoid brutally murdering her. The dialogue between characters may make some uncomfortable, as may the apparent inevitability of the deaths of female sex workers within this book, in that regard The Acid Test is not for everyone. However, Mendoza's love of Mexico is evident in the vivid depictions of the landscape and loving depictions of food throughout the book. For those who love their crime lit violent, their authors passionate and have an interest in Narcos and Mexico generally, take the acid test, if you're brave enough…

For those interested in the further reading about the drug war and its impact on Mexico you could try Amexica: War Along the Borderline by Ed Vulliamy. We also have a review of Name of the Dog by Elmer Mendoza.

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Buy The Acid Test by Elmer Mendoza at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Acid Test by Elmer Mendoza at


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