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The Black Minutes Paperback – Deckle Edge, May 1, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Set in the fictional oil port of Paracuán, Mexican author Solares's debut deftly treads a risky tightrope between police procedural and surreal fantasy. Someone kills young journalist Bernardo Blanco while he's investigating a 20-year-old case involving the serial torture-murders of young girls, violations so horrifying that they sicken even hardened cops. Solares unflinchingly follows both detective Ramón Cabrera, who's assigned to Blanco's murder, and detective Vicente Rangel González, who investigated the original crimes, two idealists barely keeping themselves afloat in a sea of corruption, as they uncover layer after layer of depravity. With continually shifting perspectives and nightmarish intrusions—real or imagined?—of actual people like B. Traven (the enigmatic author of Treasure of the Sierra Madre), this haunting novel forces readers to confront that bedeviling paradox of human nature, the eternal mystery of wickedness. (May)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* At first, the sheer exuberant inventiveness of this remarkable Mexican debut may mystify some American crime-fiction fans. If those readers give it a chance, however, they may wonder why the authors they usually read are so risk-averse. Set in the made-up port city of Paracuán, on the Gulf of Mexico, the story starts in present time, with policeman Ramón “El Macetón” Cabrera assigned to the career- and life-endangering investigation of a journalist’s murder. Then the story leaps back in time to the 1970s and Vicente Rangel González’s search for a serial killer who preys on young schoolgirls. El Macetón and Rangel are good cops struggling against a culture of shocking corruption, dogged by uneducated colleagues, crooked politicians, and scoop-hungry tabloid journalists. This view is vivid enough, but it’s Solares’ prose—alternately playful, poetic, and plainspoken—that propels the pages. Some fantastic elements of Latin American fiction, such as dreams and ghosts, are present, but they won’t be dealbreakers for crime fans who don’t like magical realism. Supporting characters offer “testimony,” usually enhancing the plot, but in one hilarious instance taking a left turn, never to return. As the plot paths converge, we see how the tragic past becomes the tragic present: “As happens everywhere, the city grew up around its tombs.” Rarely has gross miscarriage of justice been so satisfying. --Keir Graff
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 436 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat; 1 Tra edition (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802170684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170682
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #557,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Guy L. Gonzalez on July 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
Calling The Black Minutes, Martin Solares' debut novel, a "quixotic adventure" is an understatement; it features a compelling cast of colorful characters and his loose, almost stream-of-consciousness style reminded me a bit of Richard Price's excellent Lush Life. I'm not sure if it's a real genre, but halfway through I began referring to it as Tropical Noir, though Solares' emphasis on vivid characters and imagery over plot makes it all feel more literary than you'd typically expect from noir.

A great, if somewhat challenging read, and recommended for fans of literary detective novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By edf on August 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
I found The Black Minutes to be quite a refreshing read. The story is straightforward -- a police officer in a port town is investigating the death of a journalist, who in turn was investigating a serial killer and the disappearance of another police officer twenty years before. The past comes back to haunt, etc.

More important than the story, however, is how it is told. The Black Minutes uses the memoirs, articles, and testimonies of various characters to shed light on different events. In general, these are kept quite short (cough*Moonstone*cough), and do not intrude too greatly on the main narrative.

The jump from the 90s to the 70s is a bit disconcerting at first. Many of the same characters appear in both timelines, and their younger selves do always seem compatible with their older selves from a few pages back. The protagonists in the two timelines are also similar enough to be initially confusing. There were some spots where the author seems to have lost track of things (revolvers becoming automatics, shotguns becoming rifles, records becoming CDs), but these are likely translation issues (pistola, escopeta, disco) so it is easy enough to take them in stride.

The author has a style of writing that may irk some readers. Quite often, the characters in the novel perceive things (an event, the identity of a character, a logical connection) before they are made evident to the reader. In fact, there is quite a lot of this "and suddenly he knew what it was all about" stuff towards the end. As a reader, you have to either infer what the character perceives (based on how they react), or suspend the need for resolution for a couple of paragraphs.

This style of writing is a bit oblique, but I found that it greatly enhanced the tone of the book. The uncertainty and obfuscation that the characters experienced was translated quite effectively to the reader. Over all, very enjoyable.
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Format: Paperback
I'm surprised that the other reviewers don't mention Roberto Bolaño's 2666: A Novel, as this book reads like its mainstream version. It shares oddly similar plot points, including the mass murder of women (in this one schoolgirls are being murdered instead of the women in 2666), a mysterious German writer, a black pick-up truck, brutal policemen, corrupt politicians, etc. But it doesn't share Bolaño's scope and it neatly answers most of the questions it sets up. It's fun to read but it won't change your life.
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By John Augsbury on January 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
After reading the reviews I can understand some of the complaints about confusion and the total and exact meaning was perhaps missed by me but there was another layer of noire that was clearly understood and clearly had a tragic undertone. These days as we read about corruption it is easy to distance oneself from what that means. There is a haunting quality to this novel that will stay with me.
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