Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I reviewed Leighton Gage's exciting first novel Blood of the Wicked here
I also participated in an interesting and informative interview with Leighton and posted about that in three parts, here, here and here.

Now I have finished reading Buried Strangers the second in the Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation series. 

Dozens of bodies, including children, are found buried in family groups in the Serra da Cantareira, the world's largest urban forest, in Sao Paulo. Mario Silva of the Federal Police and his team begin an investigation despite the disinterest of the director Nelson Sampaio, who is more intent on his own political advancement than dealing with Brazil's massive crime problem.

Local cop Delegado Yoshiro Tanaka is instructed to look for missing families in his area but conducts his own enquiry into a family from the favelas, who are supposed to have moved to a new job, but whose furniture has mysteriously appeared for sale in a local store. Tanaka's unofficial investigation proves to a dangerous enterprise and puts more lives at risk. Meanwhile pathologist Gilda Caropreso has her own theory as to the motive for the killings based on the forensic evidence, a theory she shares with Hector. When Mario Silva is asked by his wife to help their cleaner, whose son has been missing for two months after visiting a travel agency that offers to get illegal immigrants into the USA, he sends in Arnaldo to do some tricky undercover work.

This was another entertaining police procedural thriller in which we follow the participant's actions, both police and villains, as the different strands of the investigation proceed to a climax. What makes the novel so good, and I enjoyed it even more than Blood of the Wicked, was the matter of fact easy to read writing style and the larger than life Brazilian setting; crime, corruption, murder, traffic jams, and desperate poverty are all just that bit nastier in Sao Paulo. 

Leighton Gage is also very good at creating some memorable supporting characters to his main cast.  
The grotesquely 'loud' American FBI legal attache Grant Unger, the 'danger to women' Heraldo 'Babyface' Goncalves and the incredibly boring criminal profiler Dr Godofredo Boceta are examples of the sharply drawn characterizations that make this book a bit special. Sometimes you think that the larger than life venal characters and plot are are a bit over the top but then you think, wait a minute this is Brazil after all.

This is very definitely a police procedural thriller, and not a mystery, as the reader usually knows more than the police as the plot moves along. Buried Strangers is a page turner because you want to find out what happens next and whether Mario Silva, Hector, and Arnaldo deal with the villains. There is of course the extra bonus that the reader gets a lot of information about Brazil and the country's dysfunctional multicultural society.
Buried Strangers also fulfills another one of my criteria for good crime fiction [ educating, entertaining, good characterization, and plot] in that I am interested in what happens to the characters in the future, and whether the   relationship between Hector and attractive pathologist Gilda Caropreso will become even closer.

Buried Strangers will be published in January 2009, and many thanks to Leighton Gage and Soho Crime for providing the review book.
I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the series Dying Gasp which should be available in January 2010. 


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