- Paperback: 346 pages
- Publisher: Outskirts Press (June 30, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1432755684
- ISBN-13: 978-1432755683
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,852,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Twenty Centavos: A Mystery Set in San Miguel de Allende
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Top Customer Reviews
"Twenty Centavos" starts with the murder of an art gallery owner in San Miguel. A painter, Paul Zacher, is recruited to investigate, the assumption being that his unique point of view, his painter's eye, hones in on clues often missed by veteran detectives. His search propels us into the exclusive world of art collectors and dealers. With his beautiful lover Maya Sanchez and his sidekick Cody Williams, a retired gringo detective, Zacher follows a picaresque trail that starts in San Miguel and winds through Pozos, an abandoned mining town, on to archeological digs in Yucatan, even to exotic Minneapolis, Minnesota before returning him home to put together the puzzle's pieces.
"Twenty Centavos" is the first of a series of San Miguel Mysteries planned by John Scherber, starring the redoubtable Paul Zacher. Like Chandler's Los Angeles, Lehane's Boston, and Block's Manhattan, San Miguel is a canny choice of setting. It's a quiet little colonial town in the Bajio mountains if central Mexico, legendary as a mecca for artists and writers. And according to Scherber, its reputation for tranquility barely hides the multitude of extravagances (and sins) found just below the surface. He understands the allure of those cobblestoned streets and high walls and uses it to real advantage.
Paul Zacher is a compelling protagonist as well. He's an expat, an American who has adopted San Miguel as his home. Zacher is not hardboiled in the traditional tough-guy sense, but has a soulful and erudite voice, and is sometimes given to artistic temperament, as when he's annoyed to be pressed into crime-solving at the expense of time for his painting. His insights and curiosity lend an air of authenticity, spicing up the book with factoids of Mexican history, and ruminations on the creative process.
Novelist John Scherber knows whereof he speaks. He's based his hero on aspects of his own background: Scherber has been a portrait painter, a landscape painter, a house restorer, a cabinet-maker, even a stockbroker, and so he knows the value a trained eye. An expat himself, he now lives full-time in San Miguel.
Of course, the measure of a series is whether you'll return to it. In the author's introduction, Scherber tells us that a total of eight San Miguel Mysteries are finished or in the works. Will we want more of the adventures of Zacher and his cohorts? I'd bet yes. In "Twenty Centavos," Scherber's joy in rendering Zacher's adventures is infectious. The storyline is unpredictable, the dialogue snappy and believable, the action relentless.
And, in the end, who can resist returning to the sunny climes and warm embrace of San Miguel de Allende?
Intriguing plots, complex enough to keep you reading into the wee hours, but not enough to bury you. I want to meet Paul, Maya, Cody and Barbara! Scherber has a great feel for this wonderful town, it's people, history, not to mention the unique Mexican institutions; he's done his research well.