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Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  947 Ratings  ·  174 Reviews
From the award-winning, critically acclaimed Charles Bowden, a stunning work of reportage on Ciudad Juirez?the blood-soaked town caught in the crosshairs of MexicoOCOs escalating drug wars"
ebook, 384 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Nation Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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Aug 10, 2010 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you could reduce this book to one sentence, it would be this: The murder rate in Ciudad Juarez is now higher than any other city in North America--EVER--and with no significant change in demography or law enforcement procedure, it will continue to climb annually!

Imagine a continuum. On the far left is genocide. On the far right is municipal murder rate. The continuum only captures, say, the last 20 years. (This continuum does not include conventional warfare, where uniformed combatants meet o
Amar Pai
Feb 03, 2012 Amar Pai rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book, like Bowden's earlier work Down By The River, makes me so angry I feel like I'm suffocating. People who believe in the "War on Drugs" are so completely disconnected from reality that no rational arguments are even worth mustering. At this point it's like arguing against belief in God. He exists because he exists. Drugs are bad because drugs are bad. The War on Drugs is working because it is working.

50,000 dead in Mexico since Calderon commenced the current "crackdown on cartels." The
Jul 13, 2010 Aron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book extremely frustrating. Bowden did some terrific investigative reporting and when he lets the people he met talk for themselves, the book is fascinating, terrifying and moving. But when he goes on and on about his own anger and frustration, it just sounds self-righteous and his writing deteriorates. Not that I doubt his rage is genuine, it's just that his style becomes florid and overly melodramatic. The situation is dramatic as it is. No need to hit your readers over the head w ...more
Feb 07, 2014 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Please be advised that there will be no apocalypse. The very idea of a Götterdämmerung assumes meaning and progress. You cannot fall off a mountain unless you are climbing. No one here is slouching towards Bethlehem to be born. We shall not meet next year in Jerusalem. For years, I thought I was watching the city go from bad to worse, a kind of terrible backsliding from its imagined destiny as an America with different food. I was blind to what was slapping me in the face: the future.

Razed, spoi
Bob Price
Having been to Juarez, and having friends there, this book greatly interested me. Having read the book, this is a must read for anybody who wants to understand the situation in Juarez, because this is (to my knowledge) the only book that is willing to look at the killings.

Juarez is the final destination for a great deal of Mexicans who wish to become US Citizens legally. Any Mexican citizen who wishes to legally come to the US must go to Juarez. But by coming to Juarez, they are putting their li
Angie Taylor
Jan 10, 2014 Angie Taylor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is disturbing. Disturbing in number of deaths. Disturbing in the questions of what is fact and false. Disturbing in the implications that the solutions to the problems in Juarez aren't working. Disturbing in it's entirety.

At times the book reads like a poetic stream of consciousness lamenting the loss of innocence, loss of a people, loss of feeling for what is right and wrong, and a loss of humanity. Throughout Bowden's lament, stories of individuals surface. The people's stories weave
Oct 15, 2012 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mexico, 2012, crime
Putting the subject matter aside for a second (if only I could put it aside forever), this book really changed my notion of what a non-fiction book can be. My book diet skews heavily towards the fiction side of things (not my short reads, mind you—if I’m reading something shorter than 10,000 words, chances are it’s non-fiction), and the stereotype notion of a standard non-fiction book that I carry around in my head is something that is basically an extended essay—the author (usually a journalist ...more
The author, an American journalist who has lived and traveled extensively throughout Mexico, is unfliching in his descriptions of the reality of life in Juarez: the corruption and violence carried out by the military and the police (often against each other), the shockingly regular murders associated with out-of-control drug wars, the frequent discoveries of mass graves throughout the region, the random assassinations of Mexican journalists for writing seemingly innocuous stories, and, most dist ...more
Jun 07, 2011 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting a straight book-length piece of journalism and instead got a warm-up for Bolano's 2666. There is analysis in here but it's mingled with the author's fantastical visions and dreamlike interpretations of the violence and death in Ciudad Juarez. Miss Sinaloa, one of the victims, becomes his sort of muse for the book. It seemed like the author, like some of the residents, can't find a rational way to explain the spiraling violence (there is none, apart from greed) and seeks a more ot ...more
Betsy Kalman
Aug 22, 2014 Betsy Kalman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bowden takes the reader into Juarez and renders the depravity, the violence and the odd humanity of the sicarios--the assassins in a method that is emotionally devastating. "'We are not monsters,'" an assassin explains. "'We have education, we have feelings. I would leave torturing someone, go home, and have dinner with my family, and then return. You shut off parts of your mind. It is a kind of work, you follow orders.'" The city's residents are so completely unable to protect themselves and th ...more
Rob Maynard
Dec 04, 2011 Rob Maynard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The original New Journalism was everything good in the potential for reportage and also held the seeds of its own seeming destruction. The magic that flowed into magazines and books from the minds of Mailer and Capote, Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, Hunter Thompson, and others defined eras and events and personalities in a way that traditional novels and traditional journalism could not. Wolfe and Thompson, in particular, were such stylists that the writing and perspective itself looked so different th ...more
May 13, 2015 Dora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harrowing and hair-raising investigative journalism in a city which lays waste to many who try to uncover its secrets.

Spoiler: although he's still alive, the author didn't escape Ciudad Juárez and probably never will. Something about his time there seems to have broken Bowden, but he was able to spin his despair into some top-notch reportage. Much of the book is taken up with the reporter's (rather more literary) version of screaming and tearing at his own face, and I agree with the many review
Joshua Buhs

Charles Bowden knows the Southwest. He knows Ciudad Juárez. He's walked its streets, He's talked to its people. He has no patience for armchair pundits. He knows where the bodies are buried.


Bowden's book is about Juárez in the year of 2008, when--as John Wesley Harding said a decade before--pointless death's become/A brand new way of life and the murder rate skyrocketed to several hundred in the single year. Bowden tried to keep track of them all before becoming disgusted. He
Apr 10, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is, without a doubt, one of the most dark and disturbing books I have read in a long time. I heard the author talking on NPR last week, and I was so captivated by his story that I ordered the brand new hardcover on Amazon, something I rarely do.

I have, for years now, been fascinated with Ciudad Juarez in Mexcio. Most people have heard about the 'femicides' that have taken place there over the past ten years or so: hundreds and hundreds of young women raped and murdered, with virtually no on
Feb 17, 2011 Danielle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was the most recent pick of one of my book clubs. It sounded really interesting from the summary on the book jacket. I was looking forward to learning more about what is going on in Ciudad Juárez. However, this book was nothing like I imagined it was going to be. Instead of being an investigative journalistic look at the events, the author wrote something that I have a hard time even explaining. If it's possible I understand even less about the issues in Ciudad Juárez than I did before I re ...more
Jul 02, 2010 Eddie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
From the very fist page, I was hooked. This was a side of Juarez that I had no idea was going on. All I ever hear about that place, is it's really bad over there and it's right next door to good ol' El Paso, Texas. This isn't a feel good book, whatsoever. It isn't a solution to the problem, either. It's a book just stating the facts on the nightmare that is taking place and is being swept under the rug by politicians, government, and media outlets for many reasons, but mostly due to fear and not ...more
Jul 07, 2010 Neil rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I heard this guy on NPR and paid full price for the book at Barnes & Noble, which is something I almost never do. The interview was that good, but the book is a whole lotta this:

"The dead are past lying and the dead know one real fact: Someone killed them. They often do not know who killed them. Nor do they know why they were killed. But at least they know they have been killed and are now dead."

Also, the "Murder Artist" chapters read like fiction and probably are.

Listen to the interview for
Karin Cope
Jan 03, 2016 Karin Cope rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the whole review, see my blog entry here:

Note, Chuck Bowden is no longer with us; he died in August 2014.

It begins as follows:

On February 17th, on my way to Mexico, I begin reading Chuck Bowden's Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields. We'd heard him interviewed on the radio in January, his voice languid and haunted, cracking from the speaker like something from the other side of death. Which in a way, he is. He's been
Feb 02, 2011 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Shortly before his death in 2003, Roberto Bolaño finished his novel 2666, about the late-1990s murders of hundreds of women in and around Juarez, Mexico. The murders were shocking then, and remain so. The police were next to useless in solving even a single murder, and to a lesser degree, the murders of women in Juarez continue today. Charles Bowden, writing in 2008 and 2009, carries on with the thousands of murders that have occurred, and continue to occur, in Juarez, now no longer confined to ...more
We take things for granted here in America. Right now, the biggest debate, according to the meida, is how dare the government not release the Bin Laden death photographs. I'm waiting for some stupid reporter to wonder why they aren't releasing the names of the SEAL Team. People get on their high horse or sound stage and mouth off about how it is violation of the First Amendment to refuse to relseae the picture. Maybe, I'm for freedom of speech, but even I have to concede that in some cases, the ...more
Jan 06, 2013 Greg rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Impossible to read.. Like a stream of consciousness stream of diarrhea. Switches between points of view with no rhyme or reason, and is interspersed with a continuing thread about "Ms Sinaloa". The only way I can figure this book is that the author just wants people to feel like shit about all the crime going on in Juarez, which is why chapter after chapter is simply filled with stories about the rampant rape and murder of women, and the volumes of law enforcement, drug dealers and innocents kil ...more
Apr 09, 2014 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will grant that this subject is perhaps too difficult to cover, but the book leaves more questions than answers, and in fact I'm not sure it provides many answers at all. The author comes to the conclusion that the Mexican army, police and gangs are fighting over control of the narcotics trade. Evidence to corroborate this is sparse. I am willing to accept this not only as true, but also likely, but as a reader I would like some evidence. What is clear is that Mexico and particularly Juarez ha ...more
Aug 13, 2010 Rauan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
worth reading and powerful in parts. but too much whining author self-torture. and too much in-yr-face prophecy.

and i agree with the reviewer who thinks that some or all of the Murder Artist chapters are just made up.

some highlights:

"The killings merge into one river of blood....I have reached a serene state...So much depends on a decapitated corpse with the head in a black daypack in the white heat of June."

(to the reader, in the prologue) "and damn you, listen as if your fucking life depended
Thought this book would be more in-depth and interesting. Bowden does give a lot of insight into the reasons why Juarez is so dangerous and doesn't just blame the murderers but the actual living conditions and drug abuse present in the city. He also does a great job of explaining how the US perpetuates the rumors of the violence being related to a non-existent cartel war. I learned a lot about Juarez and know now why the US is finally getting involved (it has to do with tourism). The problem is ...more
Jerry Peace
Sep 27, 2015 Jerry Peace rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magnificent, horrendous account. Brutally poetic and should be required reading for all Americans, particularly the ones who scream so blithely and inanely and pitifully ignorantly about illegals and refugees. We have no idea the courage of the people of Juarez for simply rising each morning, going to work, to school, to the store. El Pastor is a hero, not all the guys with guns, not any of the guys with guns. Bowden paints a charnel house, yet, yet, with a strange beauty, something irresistible ...more
Oct 09, 2014 Shaun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good ... but depressing. Man is THIS book a downer. Well-written and eye-opening ... but Gawd awful depressing.
Brad Jenkins
Feb 24, 2015 Brad Jenkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an eye-opening account of the ongoing struggle between life & death in the Mexican border towns (primarily Ciudad Juarez). This is a country ruled by a false president, who is determined to 'eradicate' Mexico of the powerful cartels & their unquenchable bloodlust. The problem is, this government is fighting the battle with a military that is corrupted by the same dirty money that runs through the veins of the underground drug industry. The cartels & gangs kill police & ci ...more
Dec 12, 2015 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

Personally don't care for the authors writing style- a bit too poetic and repetitive, but a solid book nonetheless and it gets the point across.

Juarez is hopeless. The cartels control everything with such an iron fist, that people must work with them, lest meet a certain death. The cartel has methods of torture that chill you to the bone, and creates a fear in the cityfolk that renders them paralyzed to fight back.

The city of Juarez has seen thousands of murders per year, just in th
A.E. Reiff
Magical Thinking

I want to comfort the murder city dreamland el sicario of Bowden's teeth worn invisibly around his neck and now and then torn off to throw in the soup, but Magical Thinking, one of two ways to be safe and sane, requires silence, which means pretend nothing is happening. Facsimiles refuse to say out loud the images of our torture and suffering, saving the best for second best, magical thinking: "inventing various explanations for what you refuse to say and by these explanations d
Jul 30, 2010 Jim is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-west
Holy jeebus this book is dark. This isn't reportage, this isn't nonfiction, it's a recalibration of the human condition.
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CHARLES BOWDEN’s journalism appears regularly in Harper’s GQ, and other national publications. He is the author of several previous books of nonfiction, including Down by the River.

In more than a dozen groundbreaking books and many articles, Charles Bowden has blazed a trail of fire from the deserts of the Southwest to the centers of power where abstract ideas of human nature hold sway — and to t
More about Charles Bowden...

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“There are two ways to lose you sanity in Juarez. One is to believe the violence results from a cartel war. The other is to claim to understand what is behind each murder.” 4 likes
“Vanishing here is always a possibility and it gives the city a special aura. Kidnappings are frequent, but they at least mean someone wants to return the missing and is acting in a rational manner where a human has a value in money and a feasible transaction is possible. Vanishing means a page left half-written, a tale never fully told. It is more final than execution because it means not simply being murdered but being erased from any real memory or participation in the human community.” 0 likes
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