Dan Wright's Reviews > The Plaza

The Plaza by Guillermo Paxton
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Mar 26, 13

Read from March 14 to 21, 2013

Imagine a city beset by crime and violence, where the drug cartels and the mafia reign supreme. This is a city where crime and violence are a regular occurrence, where innocent (and not so innocent) blood is shed every single day. A city where even the police offer no support and are just as corrupt as the gangsters that run the city. It a city full of fear and terror, a place where no one is safe and even children are subjected to the horrors of this city.

What I’ve described to you may sound like the beginning of some kind of fictional crime story – but in actual fact, in this instance, this reality is very real! I am referring to the city of Juarez, Mexico, a place besieged by crime as the drug lords battle for supremacy, willing to murder anyone who gets in their way. Written by a former resident of Juarez, Guillermo Paxton (who apparently suffered abuse whilst investigating the death of a reporter in Juarez), The Plaza is a harrowing tale that is not for the faint of heart and a novel that has left me feeling emotional unstable like no other book has before.

The Plaza is not just one story, but several intertwining tales that show the reader the two sides of life in Juarez. Those of the drug cartels that are running the city into the ground, and of the innocent lives who are caught in the crossfire and destroyed for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Saul is a reporter for the Juarez Daily, paper and one of the truly decent people in the novel. He is a man that remembers the days before the drug wars, when Juarez was a good city and he reports on the incidents in the city in the hope that he can bring awareness of the horror to others. He is worried for his family and seeks to protect them where he can, but he is fighting a losing battle. I really felt for Saul and wanted him to succeed, or find a place of safety. Unfortunately, things don’t go his way – and whilst I do not wish to give spoilers, his eventual fate is one of the most heart wrenching scenes I have ever read in a book.

The other characters in the book are major players within the rival cartels – and they are horrific characters, willing to torture, or even kill, those that cross them. Or even those that just happen to be in their path at the wrong time. Two stand out characters are Felipe and Juan. Felipe is a hired gun working for La Linea, Juan is a deported criminal that is hired for the Sinaloa Cartel.

Felipe is a cold blooded killer, but the novel doesn’t necessarily paint him as an evil man – just someone who lives his life the only way he knows how. In Juarez, only the strong survive and Felipe is one tough S.O.B., caring only for money, drink and women. Until he meets a prostitute named Ruby, whom he falls in love with. She brings out a side of him that he never realised he had and he, in turn, brings out a dangerous side to Ruby. But the two genuinely love each other and their love story is almost a light relief from the terror that fills out the rest of the novel. Felipe also does, to an extent have some emotions and it’s interesting the way he tries to keep these bottled up inside, but you can sense he wants to emote. So whilst he was a monster, he is at least an interest, well thought out character with some likeable traits.

The same cannot be said for Juan. He is, without a doubt, one of the most despicable characters in the book – possibly in fiction itself. This man will rape, murder and torture people just because he feels like it. All throughout the book, when not committing deeds for Sinaloa, he is kidnapping and raping women (even underaged ones) to death, all so he can satisfy his sick desires. The scenes where he does these are some of the sickest I’ve ever read in a book and it even chills me to just mention them. Juan is a man without morals, the absolutely lowest scum on the planet – and he fits perfectly in Juarez, as he can commit these horrible actions without any fear of arrest or consequence. Luckily (SPOILERS AHEAD), he does get his comeuppance eventually – and this was one of the few times I was actually thankful to see a character die.

Death is a major theme is this story – and it can come out of anywhere. Even a scene that seems normal can end up in violence and death just like that. And anyone can be caught in this, even children. I actually found myself getting a little tearful now and then reading this – it really made me feel for the people of Juarez, knowing that they have to live with this chaos. Worst still, the government, the people that are supposed to have the interests of the people at heart, do nothing to stop it. At best, all they do is send in more troopers, but this just exacerbates the problem and causes more violence.

If this were just fiction, I’m not sure I would be as affected by it as much. But because this is all based on true events (though which ones are real and which are not is left up to the reader to decide) it makes reading this that much harder to read and makes the message that much more powerful. Much like The Wire, which portrays a realistic interpretation of West Baltimore, The Plaza is a gritty, bleak and hopeless outlook on Juarez, a city lost to crime and death.

I think The Plaza is not one of these books that has to be read – it NEEDS to be read. Even if it’s just to spread awareness of the problems in Juarez, this book is a “wake up and see” tale that I think people need to know about. It is a real tearjerker and not easy reading, but then the subject matter is not intended to be a fairy tale. I should also mention that the proceeds made from this book are sent to help Juarez orphans, so even by buying a copy, you are doing your bit to help the cause. I personally give this book my highest possible recommendation.
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Reading Progress

03/14/2013 page 174
61.0%
03/15/2013 page 284
100.0% "Review coming soon!"

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