Book: Return to the Same City

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“‘In his Decalogue on mystery novels,
Chandler forgot to prohibit detectives
from getting metaphysical,’ Héctor Belascoarán
Shayne—gun-carrying Argonaut of Mexico City,
the world’s biggest city at its own expense,
the biggest cemetery of dreams—said to himself.”
Paco Ignacio Taibo II
If this is your first time reading Taibo, I envy you. Return to the Same City, the fifth of his detective novels (the first, Días de Combate, has yet to be translated into English) and perhaps the strangest, is a perfect entry into the world of one of literature’s true originals.
Taibo’s Mexico City is a place where violence erupts without warning, where the unexpected invariably happens; where past and present, reality and myth, tragic and comic are thrown together and pitched back at us through the funhouse mirror of the author’s imagination.
Our guide through this world of absurdity is one-eyed independent detective Héctor Belascoarán Shayne, who in this outing has recently been resurrected from the dead. The story starts out a year after Taibo left his hero’s bullet-ridden body lying face down in the rain. We find Héctor nursing his wounds and trying to understand why he is still alive. His on-again/off-again love, the enigmatic “woman with the ponytail” (we never learn her name) has taken off again, leaving Héctor the present of two live ducks in a basket because she believed that he “became dangerous in solitude.”
The erstwhile detective has decided that his investigating days are over, but he finally gives in to the entreaties of a woman whose sister was driven to suicide by her psychotic, abusive husband. Héctor sets off on a rambling journey to find the man, who’s been involved in drug dealing up in Miami and reportedly has ties to the Cuban mafia. Soon, however, it becomes unclear whether Héctor is the pursuer or the pursued.
As in all of the books, the magic is really in Héctor’s observations as he makes his way through the city, following the elusive strands of his cases, trying to stay sane. Taibo’s novels are complex love letters to Mexico City, full of insight and a melancholy beauty that you won’t find anywhere else. But enough of this…turn the page and see for yourself.
Patrick Millikin
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Next: Chapter One