Review published on January 30, 2018.
Reading a book that’s outside of your comfort zone can be scary. But getting away from your reading comfort blanket can be extremely rewarding too. This, in a nutshell, was my experience reading City Without Stars.
The novel is a gritty urban thriller set in Ciudad Real, Mexico. Amidst a deadly war between rival cartels, hundreds of sweatshop workers are being murdered. It’s not afraid to show the gritty reality of life and the descriptions of Ciudad Real, from the slick offices of the wealthy to the slums and sweatshops that house so many people, are evocatively described. The characters, similarly, feel real. These are not nice people – there are no heroes in this novel – but they are people, real and flawed, and with a range of complex emotions and reasoning behind what they do.
This combines to create a fantastically taut atmosphere, tense and claustrophobic with a growing sense of the net tightening as the story progresses. It’s extremely compelling and definitely has that page-turning quality. Even the violence, which is frequent, and the language, which is colourful, didn’t feel unnecessary. Yes, it’s unpalatable but that’s because it’s meant to be.
It’s not a novel for the faint-hearted but fans of hard-boiled detective novels and urban thrillers will definitely find a page-turning, compelling read in City Without Stars and I think book groups would find much to discuss.
Amy Louise Blaney 3/4
City Without Stars by Tim Baker
Faber & Faber 9780571338337 pbk Jan 2018
SECOND OPINION: Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke