Detective Fiction in the Monster, Mexico City

Leisa Rothlisberger Wiest (Pennsylvania State University)


Muertos incómodos, a novel co-written by popular Mexican detective fiction author Paco Ignacio Taibo II and the Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos, demonstrates the difficulty of accessing the information required to uncover proof of state-supported crimes. The prospect of successfully deploying such information to stop injustice is further complicated by the disparity between urban and rural geography–registers often suggestively associated with aggressor and victim, respectively. The novel’s two authors alternate writing chapters relating the travails of two detectives, one located in Mexico’s capital and the other traveling to the city from his rural home. The rural, also inexperienced, detective assumes that the proof he needs to solve the mystery of pervasive injustice is concentrated in the capital. Over the course of the novel he learns the potential strength of peripheral information gathering; he discovers the falsity of perceiving the government capital as the center of knowledge and justice.

The novel’s authors have clear anti-neoliberal political goals and their didacticism is heavy-handed at times, but the act of depicting the process of discovery in detective fiction deliberately models how to question injustices that are glossed over as mysteries. It is through the interplay of the two authors’ storylines and writing styles, which intrinsically allows comparison, that the novel shows the value of sharing information to crack capital crimes.

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