Tequila Sunset, by Sam Hawken, Serpent’s Tail, RRP£11.99, 352 pages
Although near neighbours, the cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez couldn’t be more different: the former is the safest in the US; the latter one of Mexico’s most violent. What they share is a gang, Los Aztecas, trading guns and drugs in both places.
Flip steps out of prison in El Paso and reluctantly resumes a career that can only escalate into violence. When he meets Cristina, a single mother working in the anti-gang unit, it’s clear that his decision to become a double agent could change his life, but a Mexican federal agent with his own agenda will precipitate a tragedy.
After his gritty debut, The Dead Women of Juárez, Hawken delivers another bleak, haunting novel. Flip operates in a fatalistic world defined by accidents of geography and nationality, and this thriller recalls the best of James M. Cain. While the bloody outcome is hardly unexpected, there’s a grim fascination in seeing how the two sides deal with it.