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Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery Paperback – March 31, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Billed as the first-ever anthology of mystery short stories by Latino authors, this volume will disappoint readers looking for fiction examining distinctively Latino themes. Of the 17 selections, the best is Edgar-finalist Manuel Ramos's The Skull of Pancho Villa, a terse, twisty tale of theft purporting to tell the real story of the fate of that relic. A.E. Roman's smart-ass New York City PI, Chico Santana, gets a nice lead-in to his debut novel, Chinatown Angel (Reviews, Jan. 12), in a tale of revenge, Under the Bridge. While Lucha Corpi's Hollow Point at the Synapses may be the first story told from the perspective of a bullet traveling from a sniper's rifle to the target's head, that novelty comes across more gimmicky than clever. Other contributors include such established writers in the genre as Mario Acevedo, Carolina García-Aguilera and Steve Torres. (Mar.)
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These works of short fiction…are noteworthy for their meticulous structure, complex characters and concise and unpredictable plots…a collection that is ideal for reading on the metro or at the beach or cafe. --Latin American Herald Tribune
Editors Sarah Cortez and Liz Martínez have succeeded in bringing together some of the best mystery fiction being written today…Suffice it to say that the stories in Hit List will engross, entertain and fully satisfy any lover of mystery fiction. --El Paso Times
For a real shake-up, dive into Hit List: The best of Latino Mystery, edited by Sarah Cortez and Liz Martinez (Arte Publico Press, University of Houston, $19.95). One of the best in this collection is also one of the shortest-Lucha Corpi's startling Hollow Point at the Synapses, written from the point of view of a bullet racing towards its female victim. Cold yet curious, the bullet doesn't understand the killer's motives until it hits its target, whereupon the bullet merges with the dying woman's brain, experiencing her entire life, and finally, the reason for her death. Utterly compelling, utterly heartless, this story is a true original. Also enjoyable is Arthur's Munoz's Made in China where we view a marriage every bit as worn and chipped as the rose patterned serving dish the wife received as a gift 33 years earlier. And for history/conspiracy buffs, we get Manuel Ramo's intriguing The Skull of Pancho Villa, wherein a not-too-ethical Gus Corral goes hunting for the mythical skull, which was supposedly stolen from his family. Hit List is compiled of 17 genre-busting stories, some of them tender, some of them brutal, all of them offering an intriguing Latino slant on our favorite genre. --Mystery Scene Magazine
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This was a fine collection of short stories.
This anthology features the work of Mario Acevedo, Lucha Corpi, Sarah Cortez, Carolina García-Aguilera, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Carlos Hernandez, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, Bertha Jacobson, John Lantigua, Arthur Muñoz, R. Narvarez, L.M. Quinn, Manuel Ramos, S. Ramos O'Briant, A.E. Roman, Steven Torres and Sergio Troncoso.
In the foreword to "Hit List," Ralph E. Rodriguez, an associate professor in the Department of American Civilization at Brown University, observes that the reader "will find no boring Latino caricatures or stereotypes in this volume." There is no doubt about that.
The anthology begins with a tightly wound, two-page bit of tough-talking noir by best-selling novelist Mario Acevedo titled "Oh, Yeah." In it, the narrator attempts to teach a seemingly dimwitted accomplice named Canela how to play a supporting role in an armed robbery. Of course, things go awry, but with a twist only an accomplished writer such as Acevedo could pull off.
There's some great humor here, too, such as S. Ramos O'Briant's sardonic "Death, Taxes ... and Worms," where we're introduced to a very proper Nellie Gallegos, who knows a trifle more about the death of her neighbor than she initially admits.
Several of the stories veer into wonderfully strange territory. "The Skull of Pancho Villa" by mystery novelist Manuel Ramos is based on various rumors as to the whereabouts of the Mexican revolutionary's head. The narrator, Gus Corral, informs us that the skull ended up in his family and recounts how it gets stolen from his sister's house. If you don't laugh out loud while reading this story, you have no sense of humor.
In "Nice Climate, Miami," award-winning author Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, a professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, brings us an icy killer named O'Hara who is hired to kill a man who has failed to pay a debt. The fact that O'Hara does not appear to have any connection to Chicano or Latino culture is proof that the editors saw no reason to pigeonhole or unduly restrict Latino mystery. Hinojosa-Smith's piece is crisp and smart and fits perfectly in this anthology.
But ethnic identity is certainly part of the collection. Sergio Troncoso's "A New York Chicano" involves one Ricky Quintana, an El Paso native who has made it in New York working for Merrill Lynch and who has developed a deep hatred for a bloviating, anti-immigrant host of a television show titled "America's Watch." What Quintana does to appease this hatred proves that he hasn't lost his identity at all.
No mystery collection would be complete without a lost soul or two. Alicia Gaspar de Alba's "Short Cut to the Moon" gives us exactly that in a troubled young woman who goes deep into alcoholic homelessness when she believes that her cousin has been murdered. Her search for the truth eventually converges with an understanding of her desperate need for help.
Space constraints do not allow for a description of each story in this landmark anthology. Suffice it to say that the stories in "Hit List" will engross, entertain and fully satisfy any lover of mystery fiction.
[This review first appeared in the El Paso Times.]
As the title hints, the stories included in this anthology have Latino undertones, yet these aren't your traditional chupacabra stories. These here run the gammut of losing souls to teaching people lessons. With each story being short, the longest of them running only about 10 pages long, I was able to get a feel about all these authors just enough that I moved to look up further works by them.
I must admit when I first began reading this book, I was confused. Half way through the first story I was wondering where the mystery was. Once I reached the second story, I realized this collection is a throwback to pure mystery rather than the "in your face" type we often read nowadays. It was such a pleasure reading knowing that the authors wrote while thinking of the reader. I had to try to figure out what the twist was going to be in the end. I knew one was coming and most of the time I was caught off guard.
I enjoyed these short stories and the fact that the book was published by, edited by and written by Latino authors was icing on the cake for me.
To paraphrase a clever bit of marketing, betcha can't read just one!
I found myself absorbed in murder, mayhem, money, revenge, twists, and sorrow, with plenty of "GOTCHA!"
In Lucha Corpi's "Hollow Point at the Synapses," I met a cold steely character brought to life, like magic.
Sarah Cortez, one of the capable editors of the collection, shows us relationships turned inside out, in "In My Hands."
Carolina Garcia-Aguilera's "The Right Profile," is as satisfying as seeing a cop pull over the guy who just sped by you at 90 MPH.
Each one of these authors deserves his/her own kudos, but I don't have time here to continue. This is a group of stories for everyone. Even the Spanish words, when they're included don't require a facility for the language. The characters are