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The Dead Run: A Novel by Adam Mansbach
Review by Harriet Klausner
Harper Voyager Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062199652
Date: 24 September 2013 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Like many people on the Tex-Mex border, Jess Galvan is an importer who, once again like many residents, if the authorities catch him with his cache he goes to prison for transporting illegal contraband. As he waits for his latest delivery in a Mexican bar, Jess notices two locals with a stoned jailbait who reminds him of his daughter Sherry.

For six years since his divorce he has tried twice to gain custody from his religious lunatic of an ex, Melinda Richards. But the mother has to be more than a maniac for a father with little money to win in kill-em all and let God sort it Texas--unless you can afford Baxter Shanley as your lawyer. This is why he is in Mexico ready to take Pescador's bearer bonds to El Paso. However, unable to ignore his thought that the teen could be his child; he intercedes unfortunately one of the assailants is the Chief of Police.

Galvan gets ten years for attempted murder. While he is in prison, Mexican cop Fuentes and Del Verde County Sheriff Nichols look at the body of a dead young female while the other police cringe at the kiss of the devil on her. Not long after that Sherry vanishes panicking her mom who calls Nichols. He and Melinda's former shrink Dr. Ruth Cantwell check out a cult run that Sherry and her mom once belonged too.

After a fight, Galvan believes that he heads to the terrordome, but instead he finds he is in an ancient temple of sorts. There Tenochtitlan High Priest El Cucuy informs Galvan he owns him as his puppet for the day. The shaman ties a box containing a virginís heart onto Galvan's back for the gringo to deliver to Seth, a cult leader. Failure means El Cucuy will insure his deliveryman resides in hell for eternity, but Galvan is unaware that deliverance means Aztec hell on earth.

The key cast is stereotyped but few readers will mind as the locale is incredible. Galvan is the Good Samaritan smuggler; Nichols is a dedicated sheriff; Cantwell is a fiendish cult buster; Melinda is a God freak without her cult's anchoring; Sherry is an uptight teen caught in the middle; and Seth and El Cucuy are pure evil though the latter brings freshness with his Aztec beliefs and his ability from a distance to destroy traitors and enemies.

This is an exciting Aztec urban fantasy that uses the Tex-Mex border as a bridge between the supernatural and the trafficking that goes both ways (guns south; drugs and people north). For much of the early storyline, the plot rotates between Galvan in Mexico and Nichols-Cantwell-Richards in Texas with both subplots filled with tension and action. Once Galvan crosses back to the States to make his delivery only to learn Sherry's fate, the action accelerates as the audience anticipates the confrontation though that is somewhat disappointing.

With a nod to the FX TV show The Bridge while containing a believable (for the most part) paranormal plot, Adam Mansbach uses the essence a of Tex-Mex nation to spin an entertaining supernatural thriller.

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