Review of Paco Ignacio Taibo II's No Happy Ending | How Mysterious! » How Mysterious!
Dec 032012

One thing even loyal HM! readers may not know about me is that I’m a huge fan of the Atlanta Braves baseball team. During most of the 1990s they were the best team in the National League but somehow usually found a way to lose the big games in October, when it matters (without the 1995 World Series championship, we’d be the Cubs).

And so we have Paco Ignacio Taibo II’s No Happy Ending. Reading it is kind of like being a Braves fan: you know it’s probably not going to end well, but you have to keep hoping. The title pretty much says it all.

Hector Belascoaran Shayne, our hard-boiled detective, finds himself in the midst of a mystery when a dead body appears in and then disappears from his office. If that’s not strange enough, the body was seated on the toilet dressed like a Roman soldier (as in ancient Rome). Shayne then receives a photo of another dead body, a warning note and a one-way plane ticket to New York. O Hector, why didn’t you take that plane?

Shayne ignores the warning and tries to figure out who the dead men were, why they were killed, and what possible connection it could all have to him. As with the Taibo book I read last year for the Global Reading Challenge (The Shadow of the Shadow), the plot may be crime fiction but the story is really a commentary on Mexico. When Hector shoots a man, bystanders rally together to protect him from the police; no one wants to be a witness to anything; eventually it seems the police, or some of them, are in on the whole deal. Is there anyone who isn’t corrupt?

Well, yes. Hector of course. But he’s also got an entertaining circle of friends (his officemates: an upholsterer, a sewer engineer, and a plumber), plus a love interest, an unnamed woman with a ponytail. These characters lighten up what would otherwise be a pretty depressing story in a pretty depressing setting. That, and the fact that several other Shayne novels appear after this one.

Counts toward North America in the 2012 Global Reading Challenge

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