A DEATH IN MEXICO | REVIEWS

A Smart, Robust Detective Story

A Death in Mexico by Jonathan Woods.  Published in German as Die Tote von San Miguel (Dead Woman from San Miguel)

Jonathan Woods started writing his detective novel at  the age of sixty. To write his book A Death in Mexico he gave up his successful career as a lawyer - or at least put it on hold.

Crime fiction has become very serious lately. Based on the complex epics of David Peace or Don Winslow, the themes are weighty contributions to discussions of matters that move the world: big politics, structural violence and the various psycho-social dislocations of globalization.

But, fortunately, in the course of literary evolution, counter-currents are formed opposite to the current trend. In the case of crime fiction, such counter-cyclical movements bring us back willingly and sensibly to the origins of the genre which historically derived from tales from the gutters.
Jonathan Woods’ novel A Death in Mexico did not appear for no reason from the small New Pulp Press, whose name says it all.  The book takes its style from the wonderful old pulp magazines of another era, printed on cheap pulp paper; American crime novels from a great past - Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson and company were all "pulp" authors.

The basics of A Death in Mexico include a manageable setting, a straightforward plot, and a certain vividness in its description of the physical world. Violence, sex and other expressions of physicality are written in a laconic, metaphorical language with concise, witty-aggressive dialogue.  The novel is set in a small Mexican town where a community of American expatriates has become established because of the low cost of living, allowing them a bohemian lifestyle as painters, gallery owners, models, muses and loafers.

A smart, robust detective story

The story takes a turn for the worse when a pretty young woman from this group falls victim to an apparent ritual murder.
Woods tells his story strictly from the Mexican point of view, from the perspective of lazy and corrupt Inspector Díaz, who would rather chase women than stress himself over a case. However, there are aspects about the affair that awaken in him the desire to be a good cop, though not necessarily a  good person. It's not at all about the ritual murders of a crazy serial killer; but even that is classic Chandler - people have their good reasons for killing. In Woods’ twist on the usual U.S./Mexico relationship of the Yankees doing the work for incompetent Mexicans, his descriptions of aberrant types from the art world, the bestiary of small-town cops and the ever revolving, often comical, references to the Mexico-mania depicted by films such as Desperado and Machete, provide entertainment galore.

The robust, intelligent detective story underlying A Death in Mexico prevents this crime story from being another vain meta-novel. This is a truly delightful book that reinvents with ease the rough, raw and gritty origins of crime fiction "from below,” while being quite elegant and spirited. It is a fruitful reading experience within the above traditions of pulp detective fiction. Crime fiction is not a rigid genre. Books like this one by Jonathan Woods pleasurably remind us of this. - Von Thomas Wortche, Deutschlandradio Kultur, April 4, 2014  

A Gritty Noir Tale

“Woods (Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem) spins a gritty noir tale set in San Miguel de Allende and filled with sex and a cynical detective, Insp. Hector Diaz...True to the nature of the traditional detective novel, understanding the character of Inspector Diaz is as important as the solving of the murder. Woods creates interesting and sometimes extravagant characters who play out a crime drama that Walter Mosley and James Ellroy fans will appreciate.” - Library Journal

A Deft, Fast-Paced Whodunit

"Woods writes a deft, fast-paced whodunit in A Death in Mexico, a follow-up that delivers on the promise of Bad Juju, his award-winning short story collection published last year… Delivered in Woods’ deadpan prose, [the] comedic elements [of A Death in Mexico] balance the violence at the core of this noir comedy, luring the eager reader in for the next one-two punch the author has lined up…A Death in Mexico [is] a smooth combination of hilarity and violence by an author who has found his voice.  Hopefully, it’s the forerunner of many more to come.” – Michael Beeman, Foreword Reviews

Beautiful And Hilarious

“[In A Death in Mexico] Woods is not drastically fucking with the [mystery fiction] recipe, but he’s certainly added a lot of salsa and chili powder to the mix…Woods’ prose is stacked with metaphors both beautiful and hilarious, and brings us into Inspector Diaz’s mind with ease, giving us a man whose brain, when it’s not fixated on the case, is thinking about the next glass of mescal he’d like to chug or curvy woman he’d like to bone down with.  But beneath those distractions lies a wounded man with little left to lose.  I hope to see him again toot-sweet.” – The Nerd of Noir in Spinetingler Magazine

Reminiscent Of Raymond Chandler

“[In A Death in Mexico] Woods tells his story in a slam-bam style reminiscent of Raymond Chandler…His writing is replete with metaphors that pepper you like bullets from a Tommy gun.” – Shirrel Rhoades, Solares Hill Magazine, the Key West Citizen

Outrageous And Unruly Mescal-Soaked Murder Mystery

"An outrageous and unruly mescal-soaked murder mystery packed with plenty of euphoric and hallucinogenic highs and none of the regrettable aftereffects... adventurous readers - those willing to drink without first asking what’s in the glass - will savor Woods’ unorthodox melange of sex and slaughter under the sun...Instead of Chandler or any of the usual suspects, Woods’ style is more suggestive of Henry Miller by way of Graham Greene." - Cullen Gallagher, Los Angeles Review of Books, November 26, 2012

Wonderful Lurid Mystery

Woods wowed us with his short story collection, Bad Juju.  Here he proves he can excel in the long form as well as the short, with a wonderful lurid mystery featuring the engaging hero Inspector Hector Diaz, a rumpled Mexican cop full of vices and all the virtues that count. - Scott Montgomery, MysteryPeople . . . Read More!

FROM OTHER WRITERS:

Deliberately-Paced, Thoughtful Tale

“Solved any good cases lately?”  So asks a local whore of Hector Díaz, police inspector in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  And while that seemingly throwaway question dangles between Díaz and the whore in a San Miguel bar one night, it actually forms the basis of A Death in Mexico (New Pulp Press), the debut novel of acclaimed short story author Jonathan Woods…A deliberately-paced, thoughtful tale…Woods draws you to this story like a blazing fireplace in the next room on a cold night.” - Mike Dennis, author of Man-Slaughter, Temptation Town, The Ghosts of Havana and Setup on Front Street

Great And Telling Ride South Of The Border

“Jonathan Woods has arrived.  A Death in Mexico is a great and telling ride south of the border into madness and mayhem.  I loved it.  I want to read more about Inspector Hector Diaz.” – Michael Connelly, award-winning and best-selling author of The Lincoln Lawyer, Blood Work and the Harry Bosch crime novels, most recently The Drop

Flinging Literary Bullets At The Page With Precision

"In A Death in Mexico Jonathan Woods has an itchy trigger finger, flinging literary bullets at the page with precision, confidence, and playfulness. He writes twisted scenes that had me laughing in wonderfully inappropriate ways.  And right when the action is going mach speeds, he somehow whispers a poignancy right in your ear." – Joshua Mohr, street poet of San Francisco’s Mission District and author of Termite Parade and Damascus

Woods stands with Simenon and Derek Raymond

“Jonathan Woods’ A Death in Mexico is more than a police procedural, it's a portrait of a wounded man trying to make sense of a world that increasingly makes none. Woods stands with Simenon and Derek Raymond as a master of the form.” – Scott Phillips, master of noir and author of The Ice Harvest and The Adjustment

Journey Into The Darkness Of Modern Mexico

“Reading Jonathan Woods’ A Death in Mexico is similar to using 80 grit sandpaper on your eyes, as it takes you on a painful journey into the darkness of modern Mexico.  A Death in Mexico is as blood-haunted as the history from which it is spun.” - Frank Bill author of Crimes in Southern Indiana

Stylish, Gritty, No-Holds-Barred

“With Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem and its deliciously twisted tales, Jonathan Woods blew into town as the new bad boy of American noir.  Now, A Death in Mexico shows he’s here to stay.  This stylish, gritty, no-holds-barred novel establishes Woods as a master storyteller in the tradition of Chandler, Hammett and Mosley.”  - Ben Fountain, PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

FROM THE READERS:

 Great Atmospheric Noir

"A Mexican policeman.  A dead American model.  Politics.  Mezcal.  Sex.  Great atmospheric noir with excellent pacing and a perfectly captured setting."  - Marty McCabe, June 21, 2012

He's The Real Deal

"Jonathan Woods made a big splash with his short story collection Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem and his debut novel shows he's the real deal. While sticking with familiar noir tropes (a hard-drinking detective, a femme fatale), Woods uses surprising plot twists and elegant turns of phrases in this original and compelling mystery. Taking place in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Woods creates a sense of place that is both exotic and claustrophobic. And the lead detective, Hector Diaz, seems to be a character ready-made for a long series. While New Pulp Press is best known for releasing brilliant if over-the-top "psycho noirs", (The Disassembled Man, The Bastard Hand, Hell on Church Street), A Death in Mexico is more mainstream and accessible--and that's not a bad thing." - Ron Bradford, April 21, 2012

Non-Stop Noir . . . You Cannot Resist!

"A Death in Mexico grabs you by the cojones and does not let up for a second! Non-stop noir rolled up in a carne asada burrito served up piping hot...You cannot resist! Get you some today and feel the burn!" - L. Boxer, May 27, 2012