“We all have a deep desire, a deep need, to ignore what is happening here,” writes Marcus Sedgwick midway through Saint Death. Sedgwick, who sets his new novel amid the violent borderlands of Juarez, Mexico, might be describing human migration or death itself, embodied in this story by the mystical appearance—both literal and figurative—of Santa Muerte, or Saint Death. Either way, Sedgwick’s latest novel forces readers to look at what’s happening in regions of Mexico, and at the pressures that have created the drug cartels, which are provoked by U.S. demand and, in many cases, armed by the U.S., too.
Caught in the crosshairs of this volatile situation is a lonely young man, Arturo, a cardsharp who is enlisted to help save the life of his old friend Faustino—but who finds himself in a bargain he has no real way to win.
With Saint Death, Sedgwick offers a timely story that often reads like a thriller—or like a fable. Suffused with elements of magical realism and informed by real-world facts and statistics, Sedgwick’s narrative is remarkably immersive, providing both context and a human face for an issue that too often remains abstract but that, as he suggests, cannot be ignored.