The Black Minutes
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The Black Minutes

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  260 ratings  ·  56 reviews
When a young journalist named Bernardo Blanco is killed in the fictional Mexican port city of Paracuán, investigation into his murder reveals missing links in a disturbing multiple homicide case from twenty years earlier. As police officer Ramón “el Macetón” Cabrera discovers, Blanco had been writing a book about a 1970s case dealing with the murder of several young school...more
Paperback, 436 pages
Published May 1st 2010 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published August 30th 2006)
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Natalie Hamilton
Enjoyable read but Solares breaks a few cardinal rules of detective/police procedural fiction that undermine the quality of the story, particularly as it relates to the perpetrator of the crimes. I was drawn to the book by reviews indicating magical realism or surrealism, but those reviewers clearly don't understand the generic distinctions. There are some unusual (and rather marvellous) passages, but each of them is explained away as a dream or dream state, which eliminates any magical realist...more
Masquerading as a crime novel, Martín Solares' The Black Minutes is actually a fine piece of literature . The novel is set in a northern Mexico port city that is riddled with narcotraficos, police corruption and some sketchy Americans whose businesses dominate the local economy. The story begins when a young reporter is found murdered, and one of the local detectives is sent out to investigate. Over time, he finds links to some unsolved crimes, the kidnapping and murder of small girls in the 197...more
Jeff Scott

“…everyone has five black minutes…”

And so begins one of the better detective noir stories out there. While reading, I am constantly reminded of the classics of noir fiction like Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest, one honest detective in a crooked town. Corruption is rampant and obvious, but who is willing to take the risk to put a stop to it. However, in Solares’ case, you get a little Latin American Surrealism with your detective noir. It’s a light version, but for those expecting a straightforwar...more
Gabriel Oak
A surreal, postmodern novel masquerading as a police procedural, Solares's book tells the story of two different police investigations in the fictional Mexican town of Paracuán, Tamaulipas. In the first, a none-too-bright detective is assigned to pursue the killer of a young journalist. His story is interrupted when someone tries to kill him, and the novel rewinds twenty years to recount the story of a previous police detective pursuing a serial killer in the same town. The two storylines come...more
THIS IS FABULOUS!!! Highly recommended!!!
Well, I had high hopes for this book. Perhaps that contributed to my disappointment.

All told, I think it is a valuable entry into international crime fiction because it incorporates some rather bold literary tools that are otherwise unfamiliar to the genre, not to mention it bills itself as Mexican Noir!

Despite its merits of ambition though, it fell flat in execution. It felt to me like the author was trying to be reminiscent of Bolano in 2666, but just did not have the talent...yet--I will sa...more
It's hard to believe that "The Black Minutes" is Martin Solares' first novel. Elevating the form of detective noir, he weaves an intriguing portrait of a small Mexican drilling community that is both romantic and horrific.
The novel is set in two time-periods. In present day, a journalist is murdered and investigator Ramon Cabrera uncovers his expose on the grisly deaths of several young girls twenty-years prior. The bulk of the book revolves around that story, in which we are introduced to a se...more
A novel with narratives that fracture off into different narrators once in a while, with sometimes heavily stylized voices, okay that's fine. Detective novel with procedural passages, uniquely Mexican flavour to the Police organization, specific historical critique of said Police, all okay too.

It's just the narrative voices (apart from the two main characters Cabrera and Rangel) all sound the same, periphery characters are sketched and given very little detail, thought processes and motivations...more
Monica Carter
The article was by a new columnist, Johnny Guerrero, a guy from Chihuahua. Rangel didn't like his style. From the first day, he was writing articles attacking the chief, like he was on the mayor's payroll. He interspersed his opinion with the facts and he exaggerated things, but more that that he seasoned his writing with flowery words: he made a bum into a derelict, a prostitute into a strumpet. For him, an autopsy was the legal necropsy and he wrote mean-spirited captions under the photos: Th
The Black Minutes is a detective/crime novel set in a fictional Mexican town which unfolds in a unique fashion in that it is told from multiple perspectives. While the format lends some interest to the proceedings it is also a drawback in that the voices of the main characters blend and the voices of the secondary characters add little overall. The story is interesting enough - the current day murder of a journalist opens up a decades old investigation into a series of gruesome child murders - h...more
I was eager to read this book after seeing very positive reviews -- some said a "police procedural," which I like but my main interest was that it's by a Mexican author and set in Mexico, so I was really looking forward to some real sense of place and culture -- which I didn't really get in this book. It was hard to connect to the characters (it's told from different perspectives) and to keep up with the names and nicknames (a glossary helps, but a little more development of identity of the char...more
Sep 29, 2013 Patrick rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of noir, police procedurals, Latin American geography and culture
Recommended to Patrick by: Article in The Nation magazine
I eventually enjoyed immersing myself in the police drama, the landscape, and the dark secrets of the coastal Mexican city of Paracuan. However, the English translation seemed very uneven and created a negative first impression. I was immediately put off by what seemed to be amateurish and/or unimaginative translation in the first few chapters. The characters and the premise of the story were compelling enough to keep me going, and I was pleased to find as I read into "Book Two" (the historical,...more
Sharon Li
What can I say, this is just about one of the best works of contemporary fiction out there. Hands down the best crime fiction. You can read a good synopsis here. The story, told from multiple perspectives, is flabbergastingly (is this even a word?) multilayered. Martin Solares's interweaving the past with the present puts the reader on a whirlwind roller-coaster ride (the thrilling good kind that gives you lots of endorphins).
However, The Black Minutes isn't great just for its story-telling. Mr....more
The crime procedural is not typically an attractive genre for me, but from the outset, I liked its strong sense of place, and since it was sent to me from Paperback to the Future I stuck with and and eventually was drawn in. Predominantly a depiction of corruption in Mexico's government/law enforcement. Totally confused by the last page, so if anyone has insight, let me know!
Lindsy Cusic
I feel like in the 400 pages that I read nothing much happened plot-wise. However, it wasn't a painful read by any means. I enjoyed the story, a murder of a journalist takes place as a result of him digging up information about a series murders that happened 20 years ago in Mexico. The plot starts in present-day, then switches to the past for about 3/4 of the book, finally resolving in the present at the end. The only thing that I complain about with this book was the number of characters. When...more
I read this book only because it was recommended in Latina magazine, and for some reason, it is hard to find really go novels by Latino/a writers. This book was actually written by a Mexican writer. He set it up as a fictional town in Mexico filled with corrupt cops, politicians, etc., and then he dropped in people who were trying to solve crimes the right way. I read this book in three days. It was that good. What was also funny was how descriptive he was with the characters. I thought it was f...more
This crime novel by Mexican author Martin Solares is a mixture of police procedural, serial killer thriller and exploration of corrupt cops set in a seaside Mexican city that started out really energetic and vibrant, but by the end was completely rambling, stumbling to a finishing point. At 430 pages, this novel could have [and should have] used some trimming and tightening up. The unhinged, all-over-the-place way the story is told and writing style of Solares might have been intentional to conv...more
This was a fantastic detective story. A huge cast of characters and the backdrop of an entirely Mexican culture gave it an authentic and disconcerting feel. The culture of machismo and rampant (police and political) corruption did not do much to bring down the sometimes hilarious and sometimes frustrating and dark plot points. The novel plows forward, barely stopping to catch up with its own storyline. The reader is at pace with the lead detective--though there is one for each of the two time pe...more
This Mexican crime novel was in turns fascinating and frustrating. Solares tells two intertwined stories involving police and criminals today and in the 1970s. Many of the same characters are involved, so that you see how the earlier events influenced the later events. Solares starts the novel in the present, then shifts for hundreds of pages into the past, and the shifts back to the present. There is a large cast of characters, and keeping them straight was difficult. By the end of the book I w...more
This book received some very prestigious awards, and I feel bad about giving up on it. I just couldn't get into it. Perhaps the translation isn't as good as it should be. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind for it. I don't know.

There's a police investigation into the death of a journalist who was looking into an earlier investigation into the serial murders of young girls. There's police corruption. The detective investigating the journalist's murder is threatened and involved in an accid...more
May 11, 2011 Gigi marked it as to-read
Shelves: crime-fiction
booklists best crime:

The Black Minutes. By Martín Solares. 2010. Black Cat, $14 (9780802170682).

The sheer exuberant inventiveness of this remarkable Mexican debut may mystify some American crime-fiction fans, used to tamer fare. Set in the made-up port city of Paracuán, on the Gulf of Mexico, the story starts in present time, with policeman Ramón “El Macetón” Cabrera assigned to investigate a journalist’s murder. Soon, though, the story leaps back in time to another investigation in the 1970s. A...more
Guy Gonzalez
Calling The Black Minutes, Martin Solares' debut novel, a "quixotic adventure" is an understatement; it features a compelling cast of colorful characters and his loose, almost stream-of-consciousness style reminded me a bit of Richard Price's excellent Lush Life. I'm not sure if it's a real genre, but halfway through I began referring to it as Tropical Noir, though Solares' emphasis on vivid characters and imagery over plot makes it all feel more literary than you'd typically expect from noir.

I couldn't put this book down. This police procedural set in Mexico has elements of magical realism but the crime and corruption take center stage. The two idealists who are the main characters are very well drawn and the twists and turns keep you guessing. There are a lot of characters and it's sometimes hard to keep track of who's who since the author changes back and forth from their given names to nicknames. Luckily there's a list of characters at the front of the book if you get lost.
Over all the book was very interesting. Solares starts off with a modern day detective novel but then quickly delves into the past and begins the story of Detective Vicente Rangel. This takes up most of the book before we finally come back to the present. While the book is written extremely well, (I read it in Spanish), it lacks a certain "wrap up". That is to say after you read it you're still left with the same questions. But over all I did enjoy the book.
The Black Minutes employs Latin American magical realism among other techniques to create a mystery unlike any other. Solares combines jazz, narco culture, and noir into a heady stew of a police procedural, giving the genre a good punch to the gut. A good mystery for fans of Garcia Marquez and his compadres and an even better one for genre fans looking for a taste of something different. Chabon better watch out - Solares gives him a run for his money!
Nick Duretta
Honest cops battle corrupt cops while tracking a serial child murderer in a fictitious Mexican city. This reminded me of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels. The cops have distinct personas, many with nicknames like "El Travolta" and "Blind Man." Right from the start you know that the policemen with integrity are fighting a losing battle. Solares writes directly and with brutal poetry, he both grieves for and adores his country.
What a tough book. It starts off with a three-page cast of characters, many of whom have not just a given name but also a nickname (or two). I was glad for these pages later in the novel when I was like, "Who are these people? Is this guy that guy from before? No? Who the heck is he?"
Compelling, couldn't put it down, modern noir with 80's style under the muggy oppression of the Mexican sun. The great writing and current political themes around the drug cartel wars somewhat mitigate my guilt about indulging myself in another story about a serial killer (but I haven't started watching Dexter again, so I've bought myself a little space).
This is a wild ride - very pulpy yet also very Latin American in its many magical-realism overtones. It's a bit difficult to keep the many characters straight, which is why (no doubt) his American editor had him add a list of characters to the front of the book. I consulted this list constantly - a bit of a distraction from an otherwise enjoyable novel.
Leah Lucci
I picked this book up on a whim at the Strand a few months ago. I got about 120 pages in before giving it up because it was so gritty, depressing and stressful. There were no rays of hope here, just people sweating (it's set in Mexico) and threatening each other. The book is well-written; the subject matter and I didn't jive.
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Martín Solares is a Mexican writer whose first novel, The Black Minutes, is a crime thriller that, according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, "treads a ... tightrope between police procedural and surreal fantasy."

Awards include: Premio Nacional de Cuento Efrain Huerta (the Efrain Huerta National Prize for Short Stories), 1998, for "El Planeta Cloralex"; Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize...more
More about Martin Solares...
Diario de Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico El dia que Beaumont conocio a su dolor Trazos en el espejo: 15 autorretratos fugaces Gabriela  Leon: Sunday Walk to the Zocalo of Oaxaca La torre y el jardín

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