Saturday, June 26, 2010

Murder City

    Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the global economy's new killing fields, by Charles Bowden, is not your standard investigative journalism piece about Mexican drug cartels and violence at the U.S.-Mexican border.  Rather than a dry litany of dates, times and interviews with policy makers, Bowen's book is more narrative.  It comes across almost like a novel: a litany of anecdotes tied together with the thread of violence.  The fact that it is told in the present tense adds to the sense of immediacy, and allows the reader to follow through a year of escalating criminal activity as though you are there in Juarez. 
      In January of 2008, the murders begin with 5 policemen.  By the end of the year there were 1,652 recorded murders and by the summer of 2009 the murder rate was over 300 victims a month.  Policemen, drug peddlers, teachers, students, shopkeepers, housewives and addicts become statistics in a city where violence becomes the norm and dead bodies show up in every neighborhood.
The constant stream of stories overwhelms the reader by the end of the book and demonstrates how you can become numb to violence.  Very powerful, very compelling, very depressing.

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