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Fear is Just a Word

On sale

26th September 2023

Price: £22

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Selected: Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9780349726915

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‘A work of journalistic brilliance and rare humanity’ GEORGE PACKER

‘Truly a remarkable achievement’ JON LEE ANDERSON

‘Ahmed writes about Mexico with uncommon authority and a broken heart’ GARY SHTEYNGART

‘A stunning, colour-saturated portrait of the collapse of formal justice in one Mexican town’ STEVE COLL

Fear is Just a Word begins on an international bridge between Mexico and the United States, as fifty-six-year-old Miriam Rodriguez stalks one of the men she believes was involved in the murder of her daughter Karen. He is her target number eleven, a member of the drug cartel that has terrorised and controlled what was once Miriam’s quiet hometown of San Fernando, Mexico, almost one hundred miles from the US border. Having dyed her hair red as a disguise, Miriam watches, waits, and then orchestrates the arrest of this man, exacting her own revenge.

Woven into this deeply researched, moving account is the story of how cartels built their power in Mexico, escalated the use of violence, and kidnapped and murdered tens of thousands. Karen was just one of the many people who disappeared, and Miriam, a brilliant, strategic and fearless woman, begged for help from the authorities and paid ransom money she could not afford in hopes of saving her daughter. When that failed, she began a crusade to track down Karen’s killers and help other victimised families.

What can a person do when their country and the town where they have grown up become unrecognisable, suddenly places of violence and fear? Azam Ahmed tells the mesmerising story of a brave and brilliant woman determined to find out what happened to her daughter, and to see that the criminals who murdered her were punished. Fear is Just a Word is an unforgettable and moving portrait of a woman, a town and a country, and of what can happen when violent forces drive people to seek justice on their own.


Times Literary Supplement
Fear Is Just a Word . . . offers a voice to the victims of drug violence without demonizing the perpetrators. As a longtime observer of Mexico's drug wars I would place this book alongside the emotionally involving and sophisticated works of chroniclers like Marcela Turati, Sandra Rodríguez Nieto and the Sinaloa-based journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, murdered by gunmen in 2017. A harrowing account of one family's struggle, it reads both as a thriller and as a moving work of reportage