Dom Felipe Antunes, the Bishop of Presidente Vargas, comes to the remote Brazilian town of Cascatas do Pontal to consecrate a new church and is assassinated. When the Pope personally telephones Brazil's president about this outrage Mario Silva, Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters of the Federal Police of Brazil is sent by Nelson Sampaio, the Director of Brazil's Federal Police, to investigate.
Silva assisted by his nephew Hecto Costa, also a Federal cop, and the experienced Agente Arnaldo Nunes discovers that he must also deal with other murders.
'You mentioned Aurelio Azevedo. he was my friend, Chief Inspector. They nailed him to a tree. They shot his wife, Teresa. They even killed Paulo and Marcella, their two kids.'
Silva and his small team are faced with an uncooperative state police, corrupt judges, ruthless rich landowners, the Landless Worker's League and a divided Church as he attempts stop the escalating violence. There are also criminal elements preying on street kids and priests involved in 'liberation theology' to add to his problems.
Silva, whose own back story hides some dark secrets, has to face the harsh truth about justice in Brazil and the brutality goes on to its strangely satisfying climax.
'There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked'. Isaiah 48:22
Wicked: evil or morally wrong
Wicked: [informal] excellent or wonderful
Oxford English Dictionary
Leighton Gage, whose wife is Brazilian and spends part of each year in Santana do Parnaiba, has written a fast paced exciting political thriller. It is hard to believe that Blood of the Wicked is Leighton's first crime fiction book because it has all the smoothness of a Brazilian samba and is so well researched.
Mario Silva, the main protagonist, is a rarity among Brazil's underpaid cops who sometimes moonlight as bank robbers, he is honest. But even Mario as we learn in the novel has to accept the limitations of Brazilian justice and has taken the law into his own hands on occasions. Middle class, trained by the FBI at Quantico, and with a social conscience Silva has to be pragmatic in a society where the rich have vast wealth, the poor have very little, and stopping at a red traffic light at night can mean disaster.
I have always thought crime fiction a wonderful educational tool and Blood of the Wicked is packed full of information about a country about which I knew relatively little. Thanks to Leighton Gage I now know a lot more about this very rich country that just happens to have a lot of very poor people living in it.
This is a book with a lot of terrible violence and the excellent writing makes the action so vivid that one can smell the fear, the blood and the cigar smoke in the air.
I was left breathless by Blood of the Wicked and I am eagerly anticipating the next Mario Silva investigation Buried Strangers which will be published in January 2009.
Raymond Chandler in his essay The Simple Art of Murder said that 'realism takes too much talent.'
With the stark realism of Blood of the Wicked Leighton Gage has definitely shown he has that talent. In the next few months Crime Scraps hope to have an interview with Leighton and a review of Buried Strangers.
'The upper-middle-class condominium called Jardin Jericoara was less than ten kilometres from the favela of Consolacao, but in socioeconomic terms it was in another galaxy'.