*I received this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.*
by Yolanda Wallace
Pages: 240 pages
Published Date: March 15 2016
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Rating: 5.0 out of 5.0
Read: February 1 to February 2 2016
My first book by this author.
First off – I had an idea that I would be reading one of those ‘danger’ type books based on the book description, but I didn’t realize that it would be both a mystery and a thriller. Plus the nature of the danger was a lot more extensive than I realized.
Second off – issues. I have four specific issues, all of which might be there when the book is officially published, or 1 or more might not be. Keep that in mind. Ack. The second issue turned out not to be an issue. At some point in the book Finn mentioned that she had never seen the pyramids in person. Then much later in the book she said she saw the pyramids in person. My mind was playing tricks on me. No, not what I just wrote, that happened. I just thought they both referred to the Egyptian pyramids. But no, they referred to Egyptian (for having seen in person), and Mayan (for never before seeing in person before now). There might be some section where that is reinforced, where I got the idea wrong, but I think this specific issue was on my end. A misunderstanding on my part. Cleared up when I went looking for it to put into this review.
First issue: Power play during sex. ‘She enjoyed the power play. Giving up her own in order to submit to Finn’s. So different to what she was used to’ (exact quote). I had to stop reading when I read this part. Briefly. It’s vaguely unfortunate. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the comment or issue, it’s just that it’s kind of a cliché in lesbian fiction. One or another woman, at some point, makes some comment like ‘normally she is in command, but now she isn’t, and she liked the feeling/giving up control’ (not an exact quote). It’s the concept of a strong woman finding pleasure/fun/etc. by giving in, by allowing the other to have control. It is, more than anything else, my own fault. I just read a book (or three) right before this one that had the exact same sentiment. So it gets a little weary-ing to keep coming across it. Luckily it just gave me brief pause and did not otherwise ruin the book. Not an issue that impacts the rating in any way.
Second issue: pyramids. Turns out to not be an issue.
Third issue: Ending. I liked everything about the book, for the most part. Beginning, middle, and the end. Except for the last paragraph. I, for obvious reasons, can’t be more specific. It’s not an issue that impacts the rating, though.
Fourth issue: Both Luisa and Finn have this habit of constantly talking to themselves. Out loud. Luisa, if I recall correctly, only talked to herself when she first arrived in her apartment, though maybe she also did so at other times. Finn, though, seems to be constantly talking to herself. I don’t mean internal monologue, I mean literally mouth open, words coming out, addressed to herself. It’s vaguely distracting. Though I’ve known plenty of people who ‘do that’ in real life. Since I put this thought down for most of the other issues: the talking to themselves issue does not have any impact on the rating or enjoyment of the book.
This book is one of those two person point of view type books. Told from the point of view of Finn Chamberlain and from the view of Luisa Moreno.
Finn Chamberlain is a travel writer for a print magazine. A comment is tossed out about it being one of the few print ones still around (or something like that). Her job apparently consists of receiving phone calls to immediately head to anywhere in the world on roughly no notice (I guess there might be 24 hour notice, that might be what that 24/7 title might be about; I might be dim as it finally hit me what 24/7 is actually about (I think) - she gets 24 hour notice for a 7 day working vacation). She prefers the kind of trip where she can wander the location herself. Set her own agenda. That is not her current assignment, though. Her current assignment sends her to Cancun, specifically to be a member of a tour group called SOS (Sisters of Sappho; hmm, that’s also the name of a series of pornographic videos, I did not know that). SOS is a tour group for lesbians. She’s originally from Montana, but has seen lots and lots of the world now ('my passport has more stamps than most people have in theirs'), and now has an apartment in San Francisco.
Luisa Moreno is an ex-military person (I do not recall if it was ever mentioned if she was enlisted or an officer), who, because of an issue involving corruption, moved from the military to the police. Specifically the Mexican Federal Police. She has a strong sense of honor, and a need to serve her country. This is difficult, in some ways, when that country is Mexico, and corruption is rampant. Especially with how much control the drug cartels have.
Others: Ryan, Jill, Aurora, and others are members of the tour group. And, as might be expected, lesbians. Jill and Ryan are friends who may or may not want to be more than friends. Aurora is described as an African-American woman with a large Mohawk, is in a wheelchair, and is on the older side of the tour members.
Javier Villalobos, and Mrs. Villalobos. Mrs. Villalobos is Luisa’s next door neighbor and Javier is her grandson (Mrs. Villalobos grandson, not Luisa’s grandson) who works as a vender near Chichén Itzá. Mrs. Villalobos keeps trying to set Luisa and Javier up.
Director Chavez is Luisa’s boss in the Mexican Federal Police.
Ruben Huerta works in the Records Management. The first coworker to be friendly to Luisa. The others jeer and leave rats on her desk.
The romance is different than ones I’ve come across before (I’ve a vague feeling that I have used this expression relatively numerous times this year). It’s one of those that seemed doomed from the start. Being, as it did, start with a ‘quickie’. As I’ll probably mention in the plot section, Luisa and Finn meet at the Dallas airport. At a bar in the airport. They feel a connection between the two of them, and they hurriedly act on it in the limited time they have before their two separate places take off.
Both go into it expecting nothing more than a fling, though it is out of character for Luisa to act such. But two events occur at the time of the 'quickie' that make them think it might not be a one time thing. They exchange telephone numbers, and Finn gives Luisa a pig (I’ll admit that I got a little misty-eyed, oddly I know, when that pig got handed over). That little pig had gone with Finn everywhere, all over the world.
As I mentioned, the romance is different than one I’ve explored before. Started with a quickie in a hotel room. Followed by telephone calls while both are separated by many miles (one located in Mexico City, the other in Cancun).
Feelings developed on both sides. And . . . um . . . stuff. I do not know how to close this section.
I sometimes have a separate section for this topic, and sometimes do not. Mostly so I can say something like “yes, there is graphic sex that takes place in this book”. And, so: graphic sex occurs. For some unknown reason, my life seems to involve reading books that have sexual encounters, mixed with ‘other stuff’. And those sexual encounters seem to almost always happen while I’m on the train. No idea what’s going on there. Other than something I previously mentioned, that ‘power play’ comment, I liked what occurred. And as I tend to say, that’s all I’m going to say on the subject.
Once Luisa starts her job with the police, she is given the task of continuing an assignment her missing predecessor had been working on. Investigating the Jaguar cartel and trying to determine who the secretive leader might be. Plus unraveling several other mysteries along the way. And this isn’t just something to say that Luisa is doing while Finn is off on a working vacation, Luisa is actually shown doing investigations and interviews. Putting the pieces together. Etc. And clues she picks up are instrumental in solving the mystery.
The thriller part . . . I’m not sure how to mention it without risking spoiler stuff. Let me look at how the book is described again. Yeah, I can’t mention what occurs. This is annoying. I kind of wish this was mentioned in the book description so I could then make comments on it in this review, but I can’t. Let’s just say that somewhere along the line, the investigation that Luisa is conducting, and the working vacation Finn is on, merge and danger explodes all around them.
The book is structured into days. With a chapter that takes place before the vacation in Cancun and one that takes place after. The events, not including those two other chapters, take place over a seven day period of time.
During each day, the women follow their separate paths. After arriving at her new job, Luisa spends each day investigating the Jaguar cartel, while Finn experiences whatever the resort has to offer. At the end of each day (sometimes during the day, and sometimes a connection fails to occur for the night call) the two talk on the phone.
Somewhere along the line the danger/element of risk ratchets up until the book turns into a thriller/suspense tale. I can’t really be more specific without being all spoiler-y and stuff. I rather like it, though. I can say that much. My heart was beating fast, my breathing, at times, was also kind of fast, my irritation level with humanity was at a heightened level (here referring specifically to the really annoying people who refused to stop entering/leaving/walking near me while I attempted to read). Exciting all the way around.
In terms of setting/location, there’s one specific thing I wish to note before I move on: I did not realize that the first meeting between Finn and Luisa would occur in Dallas. I had this vague idea that they would first encounter each other in Mexico. Only reason why I thought that, I suppose was because I wasn’t using my brain. Yes Luisa is a Mexican Federal Police officer, but that doesn’t mean she is bound to only travel within the confines of Mexico. So . . . now that that is out of the way.
The book takes place in four specific locations, and three ‘additional’ moving situations (I won’t mention these specifically in a separate paragraph – I’m referring here to airplane flights, boat chases, and bus trips). The book opens in the Dallas airport. And a hotel in Dallas. Nearish to the airport, I assume. Other than conveying the idea that the people are in an airport bar, and in a hotel, which was done well, I had no real connection/feeling for Dallas. Nor did I expect to do so.
The second location that the book wanders around in is Mexico City. Completely, in terms of main characters, wandered around in by Luisa. Some things were added, monuments, the difference air has (humid; lack of – because of elevation) to improve upon the concept of ‘this is Mexico City’. I felt like I was in an apartment building, police station, etc., then out and about visiting a jail and then a rural town like village. The apartment building and police station could have been anywhere. The rural town location felt like Mexico.
The third location that the book wanders around in is Cancun. This is one of the few moments when a book wanders around in a foreign country, and I have firsthand knowledge of the location. You know what Finn does in Cancun? Stay in the resort, walk on the beach, and go to Chichén Itzá (which isn’t in Cancun, but is something people can and do like to visit while vacationing in Cancun; since it is a nearish Mayan city). So, my first hand knowledge is, for the most part, useless.
The family and I mostly didn’t stay in the hotel. Except for an occasional use of the pool, that is. It was connected to a beach, but none of us visited said beach. Mostly because the beach was said to be quite rocky. Instead we went to Cozumel to do beach/snorkel stuff. Which no one does in this book (nor should they have had to just because I did, heh; on the other hand there is a boat chase that mentions ‘a small island’, it’s vaguely possible this unnamed ‘small island’ might have been Cozumel – more than likely that ‘small island’ was Isla Contoy, or Isla Mujeres, especially since an island of 250 miles, Cozumel, isn’t exactly small. Hmm. Isla Mujeres looks puny in comparison to Cozumel on the map, yet has a given area of 425 miles – I give up. hehe).
Right, but a visit to Chichén Itzá did occur in the book, and I did also visit Chichén Itzá. I assume the book is supposed to be contemporary, i.e., sometime around 2015 or 2016. And I visited a decade or two ago (I can’t be more exact, it’s possible it was literally 2 decades ago). So the fact that one of the best memories of my life consisted of running up and down the temple stairs while everyone else crawled, while the same temple is described as being roped off doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Maybe it wasn’t roped off when I went, but is now. Allowing the vendors onto the land, though, is confusing. I can see them deciding to safeguard the ruins by roping it off. But to do that while also allowing vendors onto the land seems counterintuitive. Since there were no vendors allowed onto the land when I went. They were all outside the gate (being that these events of mine occurred 2 decades ago, my memory might be faulty; though there is a ‘gift center’ and like that is in the book, and in my recollections). And yes, there is an important moment when Finn happens to visit a vendor at Chichén Itzá, but she could have done that outside, since there is time spent outside the gate. So, long and short – I had a good sense of the pool area of the resort, one room (Finn’s), the beach area nearish the hotel, and Chichén Itzá. Also, the trip in the bus, plus the views from said bus (driving along, looking out and seeing really run-down, 3rd world like dwellings barely standing up), vividly call back memories of my own trip on a bus in between my hotel and Chichén Itzá.
Bah. Here I am doing a run through of my review to try to catch a few mistakes (likely failing), and I come to this section. And see it blank. Mmphs.
Overall, I rather loved this book. Somewhere along the way I thought that I might end up giving this book somewhere around 4 stars, or the like, but by the time I was done, the book was firmly in five star territory. So, um, I liked it, and stuff. Yay?
I liked this book. I recommend this book. If you want to know what Cancun is like outside of a resort, this isn’t the book to read. Otherwise, there is nothing to detract or keep me from recommending this book.
February 2 2016