From Publishers Weekly
Taibo, Mexico's most famous detective novelist, is not your usual plot-bound chronicler of shamuses: "The novel," according to Taibo, "like reality, like the histories we all know and those that befall us, is full of parentheses, pitfalls, ellipses that dance and that jump from side to side with no desire to settle down or to explain themselves." As this sequel to The Shadow of a Shadow (1991) begins, it is 1941, and Mexico, a neutral country, is buzzing with crypto-Nazi espionage. The Germans have three aims: to secure coffee beans for a caffeine-addicted Adolf Hitler, to establish a covert submarine base in the Gulf of Mexico and to complete some occult process involving Hitler's former adviser and guru, Eric Jan Hanussen. Hanussen, who has broken with the Nazis, is disguised as an inmate in a Mexico City nuthouse. His roommate, ex-lawyer Alberto Verdugo, rules as a sort of narrating magus over the story. Three grizzled veterans of radical causes oppose Germany's designs. Tom s Wong, a Chinese-Mexican, is surveilling a German paramilitary cohort deep in the jungles of Chiapas. One-armed Fermin Valencia Taivo ("the Poet"), an intelligence agent in Mexico City, is busting up meetings of pro-Nazi types. Meanwhile, journalist Pioquinto Manterola is getting intimations about the Holocaust from political emigres. Taibo tosses in visits from Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway, cuts quickly between times, places and topics, sprinkles his text with knowing anachronisms, and solves and dissolves his mysteries with a number of deus ex machinas. This is Taibo at his most laid back. His nostalgic radicalism will please some, but others will find the novel's smug attitude and one-dimensional characters a disappointment after the satisfactions of sparkling efforts like Just Passing Through (2000).
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Noirish, funny, with touches of the mystical and macabre, this sequel to The Shadow of the Shadow
(1991) stands on its own merits.
The shifting points of view of the large cast of characters (including cameo appearances by Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene) and complex plot require close reading. In 1941-1942's Mexico, circumstances spur the efforts of Fermin, a government spy, and Manterola, a journalist, to uncover a bizarre Nazi conspiracy--one that implicates a government minister, is directed by German Nazis, and involves Mexicans of German descent. The minutiae of daily life define the main characters, bring them to life, and create a bond with the reader. Close attention to the novel's meticulous, intricate structure pays off in increased understanding of plot and characters and delight in the author's whimsical clues and cues. Although Taibo writes within Latin American traditions of political fiction and mystical realism, his fiction is highly original and quite distinct from that of any other writer. Not an easy read, but for lovers of involved, knotty fiction, a rewarding one. Ellen LoughranCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved