Facts and Figures
Published: October 6th 2016, Orion Children’s Books
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher
What’s the story?
A potent, powerful and timely thriller about migrants, drug lords and gang warfare set on the US/Mexican border by prize-winning novelist, Marcus Sedgwick.
Anapra is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Mexican city of Juarez – twenty metres outside town lies a fence – and beyond it – America – the dangerous goal of many a migrant. Faustino is one such trying to escape from the gang he’s been working for. He’s dipped into a pile of dollars he was supposed to be hiding and now he’s on the run. He and his friend, Arturo, have only 36 hours to replace the missing money, or they’re as good as dead. Watching over them is Saint Death. Saint Death (or Santissima Muerte) – she of pure bone and charcoal-black eye, she of absolute loyalty and neutral morality, holy patron to rich and poor, to prostitute and narco-lord, criminal and police-chief. A folk saint, a rebel angel, a sinister guardian.
What did I think?
I was lucky enough to see Marcus Sedgwick talk about Saint Death at the Bath Kids Lit Fest last month, so I dived into my copy as soon as I got home. While Saint Death is definitely not a light-hearted read, it’s easy to get sucked in by the compelling characters and writing that reaches out of the page and grabs you by the throat. It’s also fairly short, so definitely something you can blitz through in a weekend – though make sure you can read the last third without bring disturbed as there’s no chance you’ll want to take a break until you’ve finished.
Saint Death feels alarmingly current, delving into the tenuous relationship between Mexico and the US, the drug trade and the violence facing women and young people on the tumultuous border that’s overrun with gangs and drug barons. In places Saint Death becomes difficult to read and you’ll want to turn away to block out the awful reality of life in Anapra but it’s an important book and it made me consider issues that, up until this point, were easy for me to turn my back on.
Sedgwick is such an evocative writer and he knows how to connect with his readers and leave a lasting impression, whether you’re reading the beautiful, dreamy prose of Midwinterblood, the fast-paced adventure of She Is Not Invisible or the otherworldly discovery of The Ghosts of Heaven. In Saint Death, we see Sedgwick at his most raw, his most honest and, unforgettably, his most brutal.
Who would I recommend it to?
If you were on the fence about trying Saint Death because crime and thrillers aren’t your thing then please take my word for it and give this one a go. It’s a fantastic, gripping story for anybody who wants to step outside of their comfort zone. Prepare for your jaw to drop at that ending, let’s just leave it at that.