Some Clouds by Paco Ignacio Taibo II

“Hector, who didn’t believe in logical thinking, hadn’t even brought a notebook. He just sat and listened. Waiting for something. Waiting to know where to start, a street, a corner. Something to lead him into other people’s lives, other people’s deaths, other people’s ghosts. One way or another it all boiled down to a question of streets, avenues, parks, it was a question of walking, of pecking around and sorting out. Hector only knew one method. He’d throw himself bodily into someone else’s story until the story became his own. He tried to picture the streets around the insane asylum in Cuernavaca. He didn’t like the idea.”

When Some Clouds begins, detective Hector Belascoaran Shayne is trying to find some peace of mind following the death of an eight-year-old boy. But Belascoaran’s retreat to an isolated beach of Sinaloa is interrupted by the arrival of his sister, Elisa.

Elisa tells Belascoaran a strange, intriguing story: her lifelong friend, Ana nicknamed ‘Anita’ has recently returned to Mexico from New York City. It seems that Ana’s father-in-law, the owner of some furniture stores in downtown Mexico City has died after a heart attack. Anita and her husband fly from New York to the funeral in Mexico City, only to learn that one brother has been brutally murdered in the family home, and that the third brother who witnessed the crime and survived is “living in a nuthouse” in Cuernavaca.

After the funeral, Anita and her husband discover that they have inherited an amazing fortune, which includes millions in cash, real estate and a bottling plant. This sounds like a stroke of good luck, but then things turn really ugly….

Some Clouds is a wonderful entry in the Hector Belascoaran Shayne series. Belascoaran is reluctantly dragged into Anita’s dangerous situation, and he throws himself into the case with his usual reckless disregard for personal safety or monetary gain. Soon Belascoaran is up to his neck in intrigue, corruption and “intricate political alliances.”

In this tale, author Taibo even manages to write himself into the story as a writer, and in one brilliant scene, Belascoaran, the world-weary, scarred, one-eyed detective shares his worldview (and a few literary tips) with the fictional version of Taibo. It’s a weird but marvelously understated meeting that should delight fans who’ve long become used to the author’s idiosyncratic approach to literary rules–in one novel in the Belascoaran series, the detective is killed, but he returns from the dead with little explanation in next novel (Return to the Same City). Personally, I was glad to see the battle-scarred detective back to fight another day, and my joy superseded my regard for literary rules.

Once again Taibo paints a bleak picture of a city so tainted with corruption “something like seventy-six percent of the serious crime” is conducted by the police. And so it naturally follows that not only is Belascoaran more or less on his own (except for the help of a couple of wrestler friends) in the investigation of the roots of Anita’s inheritance, but also as usual, he certainly doesn’t want to contact the police for help, since the odds are that they are involved in some way.

Belascoaran tends to be a bit of a loner, resorting to solitude to heal from his mental and physical wounds, but Some Clouds does include a sub-plot of sorts with Belascoaran’s office mate, Carlos the Upholsterer–a man determined to solve the Mystery of the Exotic Lingerie by any and all means possible. Taibo wisely uses flashes of humour to alleviate his dark tales of corruption and murder, and while on one level, this certainly makes them much more enjoyable, humour also makes Belascoaran a much more human and sympathetic protagonist. Belascoaran is a marvelous literary creation–haunted by the scenes of corruption and murder, he still manages to maintain his wry sense of humor as he solves crime in his own inimitable fashion and “dig[s] a little dirt out from the under the fingernails of power.”

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