ARC Review: Saint Death – Marcus Sedgwick


A potent, powerful and timely thriller about migrants, drug lords and gang warfare set on the US/Mexican border by prize-winning novelist, Marcus Sedgwick.

Anapra is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Mexican city of Juarez – twenty metres outside town lies a fence – and beyond it – America – the dangerous goal of many a migrant. Faustino is one such trying to escape from the gang he’s been working for. He’s dipped into a pile of dollars he was supposed to be hiding and now he’s on the run. He and his friend, Arturo, have only 36 hours to replace the missing money, or they’re as good as dead. Watching over them is Saint Death. Saint Death (or Santissima Muerte) – she of pure bone and charcoal-black eye, she of absolute loyalty and neutral morality, holy patron to rich and poor, to prostitute and narco-lord, criminal and police-chief. A folk saint, a rebel angel, a sinister guardian.

I receieved an eARC edition of this novel courtesy of Hachette Children’s Group/Orion Children’s Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t know what to think of this book, it was honestly strange, the story felt disjointed and I really didn’t know whether to continue reading at a few points but I guess I’m glad I did ?

I think the story definitely got better as the book progressed, I even felt for the main character at the end and nearly shed a few tears.

 But I did also find him annoyingly irresponsible, he knew fully well what was going to happen and the fluctuation between him berating himself for the stupid things he was doing (and about to do) and him doing the things anyway for some godforsaken reason, multiple times. I mean I’d understand if he made the same mistake once, maybe twice, but multiple times in the same night? That’s just pushing it a little. Although in saying that, I do realise that that is the sort of vibe Sedgwick had wanted the character to have, so I guess kudos for achieving that?

I found the concept of Santa Muerte being such a huge part of Mexican culture incredibly interesting, I felt as though without it, the book wouldn’t have been as interesting. The blind faith that the MC had in her was eerie to read about, mainly because I just can’t imagine putting so much trust into something that technically wasn’t real (although, it seemed like in a lot of cases they treated her as a real entity), enough trust to literally gamble away your life; the book brought the “sinister guardian” part of the synopsis to life and took it beyond that… The concept of that was slightly crazy and eluded me a little, but it was an interesting thing to read about nonetheless.

I also thought that Sedgwick did the right thing in showing the dark reality faced by Mexicans through their eyes, it made a change from what the media usually presents them as, especially in current American political standings in the current elections.

I did really like the fact that the book introduced me to a completely different culture, despite it being a disturbing one, it was well researched and well written, and only lost me because I did not really know much about Santa Muerte herself to begin with (I’d say it’s a good idea to read up on her a wee bit before beginning to read the story) and also that I just couldn’t for some odd reason, connect with the MC on the level at which it should have been possible. Although overall, I’d definitely say that this book is still very much worth the read.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

On the top of the hill Christ himself stands with his arms outstretched, facing both Juarez, and, on the other side of the river, El Paso, in a gesture of brotherly love. It’s a misleading gesture. His arms are outstretched because he is nailed to a cross.”


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