I bought this book a few months ago when it first came out, but since I've been working furiously on my own manuscript, I haven't had time for any recreational reading until a few days ago. Since it came out, I've been reading many glowing reviews, so my anticipation of cracking the book - or Kindle, as it were - open was growing. I read the book over just two days, and to say the least, I wasn't disappointed. Here's the book description from Amazon.com:
"In the last six years, more than eighty thousand people have been killed in the Mexican drug war, and drug trafficking there is a multibillion-dollar business. In a country where the powerful are rarely scrutinized, noted Mexican American journalist Alfredo Corchado refuses to shrink from reporting on government corruption, murders in Juarez, or the ruthless drug cartels of Mexico. A paramilitary group spun off from the Gulf cartel, the Zetas, controls key drug routes in the north of the country. In 2007, Corchado received a tip that he could be their next target—and he had twenty four hours to find out if the threat was true.
"Rather than leave his country, Corchado went out into the Mexican countryside to trace investigate the threat. As he frantically contacted his sources, Corchado suspected the threat was his punishment for returning to Mexico against his mother’s wishes. His parents had fled north after the death of their young daughter, and raised their children in California where they labored as migrant workers. Corchado returned to Mexico as a journalist in 1994, convinced that Mexico would one day foster political accountability and leave behind the pervasive corruption that has plagued its people for decades.
"But in this land of extremes, the gap of inequality—and injustice—remains wide. Even after the 2000 election that put Mexico’s opposition party in power for the first time, the opportunities of democracy did not materialize. The powerful PRI had worked with the cartels, taking a piece of their profit in exchange for a more peaceful, and more controlled, drug trade. But the party’s long-awaited defeat created a vacuum of power in Mexico City, and in the cartel-controlled states that border the United States. The cartels went to war with one another in the mid-2000s, during the war to regain control of the country instituted by President Felipe Calderón, and only the violence flourished. The work Corchado lives for could have killed him, but he wasn't ready to leave Mexico—not then, maybe never. Midnight in Mexico is the story of one man’s quest to report the truth of his country—as he raced to save his own life."
As I mentioned in my last book review for The Fight to Save Juárez, it's awesome to read a book (at least partly) about Mexico's drug war that is truly personal and shows the human side of things. Midnight isn't written in a linear/chronological fashion, but I don't think that takes away from the substance of the book - Corchado's internal battles over the future of Mexico and how he deals with death threats made repeatedly by cartels he writes about. I don't know Corchado personally, but I've been reading his articles for years, and I consider his love of over 20 years, Angela Kocherga (who appears frequently throughout the book), to be a friend. In other words, I felt a personal connection to his story, and a great respect for the risks he has taken as a journalist to at least try to get to the truth of matters - an almost impossible task in Mexico.
The writing is superb. He mentions in his acknowledgements something about getting help with his dry reporter's writing, but there's nothing about Midnight I found even close to that description. The passages about his childhood I found less interesting than his secret meetings with an unnamed US investigator who held the key to finding the identity of his potential killer, or reading about his conversations with people at the highest levels of both the US and Mexican governments like I was there in the room when they happened; but that's a personal preference.
There's a little bit of drug war history interspersed throughout the narrative, but it's just to give context and doesn't slow down the narrative. You don't need to be an expert on happenings in Mexico to appreciate the first-hand, gritty look at murders in Ciudad Juárez and politics in Mexico City from the ground up. Midnight is truly a gripping read that you're going to have a hard time putting down, and Corchado's writing will make you feel like you were there with him and his colleagues the night he found out he was a hunted man. I highly recommend Midnight in Mexico for your next read.