There are various subsets within the crime fiction genre; “tartan noir” for books set in Scotland and “Nordic noir” for those that take place in the Scandinavian countries. If there is a “narco noir” sub-genre for crime fiction set in Mexico, then Paxton is surely the reigning king.

CARTEL RISING is an action-filled crime drama built upon the lives of two Mexican-American men, Memo Smith and Lalo Torres. Their stories straddle the US-Mexican border at the Juarez-El Paso juncture. Both start off with the same meager resources: broken home, hard lessons learned young, and boxing as a way out of poverty. They take similar routes into law enforcement on the US side of the border and meet up in the boxing arena. But after that brief encounter, their lives move apart but stay curiously parallel.

Lalo becomes a homicide detective in the El Paso police department. A diligent investigator, his integrity takes him where no one wants him to go, with disastrous results. Memo is bounced out of his job with the sheriff’s department and leaves his troubles behind by heading south of the border. One thing leads to another and he ends up in a Mexican jail where he becomes the bodyguard for an incarcerated cartel kingpin.

These are the turning points in each man’s life and as the years go by, they are both pulled deeper into the narco world, but with different agendas. For both, staying alive requires a constant balance between killing and negotiation as allegiances within the Juarez cartel shift, new leaders step in, and those who break the rules are punished. And in the background the reader knows the race is on to see if Lalo or Memo will win their inevitable next encounter. But alas, this is a narco noir story and there are few winners, except the reader.

Paxton’s strong prose turns on his insightful and amazingly authentic descriptions. The dialogue stays true to the characters, from sobbing wives or playful mistresses, to the narco kingpins and victims of violence.  Over and over I found myself recognizing the truth behind the fiction; Paxton knows his location, the contemporary history, the character types, and the motivations that drive the storyline. He takes the reader inside Mexico’s mean streets like few other writers.

Content with this much power needs a better editor, although nothing detracted. But the bottom line is that if you like crime fiction, are interested in Mexico and border issues, or are simply looking for a pulse-pounder, Paxton delivers.

Cartel Rising

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Cartel Rising

© 2017 Carmen Amato.


I’m author Carmen Amato. I write romantic thrillers and the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco. Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.  More


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