Posted: December 16, 2011 in Brazil, review

Each of the books of Leighton Gage about Chief Inspector Mario Silva and the Brazilian Federal Police gives the reader a slightly different twist on the crime fiction novel.  A Vine in the Blood Number five in this really excellent series is a police procedural who- dun-nit with naturally a Brazilian twist. Brazil is very rich country with enormous divisions between the wealthy and the poor. The main interests of the country can possibly be summed up in a few words, football, football, and football. [North Americans should substitute the word soccer for football]

The FIFA World Cup is approaching fast with Brazil as the host country, when Juraci Santos mother of Tico ‘The Artist’ Santos, the best footballer in the world is kidnapped. Are the kidnappers Argentineans determined to put Tico off his game, and swing the balance in their favour? [No European team has won the World Cup in the Americas, Brazil has won five times in 1958,1962,1970, 1994 and 2002.] Or could it be a rival Brazilian footballer aiming for revenge or to enhance their own career? Or could even Tico’s girlfriend, the beautiful but unpleasant model Cintia Tadesco  be involved in some way?

This is a very high profile case, and the sycophantic Director Nelson Sampaio knows that if Tico is distracted Brazil may suffer a humiliating defeat at the hands of Argentina, with subsequent damage to his own career. There is also the matter that the kidnappers killed two young maids after getting into the house.

The team of Federal cops Mario Silva, Arnaldo Nunes, Hector Costa, and Haraldo “Babyface” Goncalves, begin a systematic investigation, and along the way we meet some interesting characters including Fiorello Rosa, a professor of criminology, who had used his expertise to become a kidnapper, and Pedro Cataldo, an honest federal judge virtually imprisoned in his office to avoid assassination. We also learn a lot about Brazilian society; football, kidnapping, samba, the illegal numbers racket, and other aspects of this fascinating, beautiful and dangerous country. [I was pleased to read this book after my son and daughter in law had returned safely from their honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro.] 

Leighton Gage’s skill is that he imparts a lot of information as an integral part of the exciting narrative, or the smart and frequently amusing dialogue between his characters. Everything flows along so smoothly that suddenly you have read 300 pages  and are eagerly awaiting the next investigation. You can start with number five in the series as each of the stories is self contained, but if you do you will certainly want to go back and read the rest of this top quality crime fiction series. 

Them with all their bullshit about the integrity of the common man, the noble worker, all that crap. If that’s what you think, Chief Inspector, I got news for you. What the common man wants is luxury.


More about Leighton Gage’s Mario Silva and the Brazilian Federal Police series.

My review of the fourth book in the series Every Bitter Thing with links to reviews of the other books and an interview with Leighton:

The son of Venezuela’s Foreign Minister is found in his apartment in Brasilia shot in the stomach, and then battered to death. With such a high profile victim the Federal cops lead by Chief Inspector Mario Silva are immediately brought in to investigate.

Silva, along with his team, his nephew Hector Costa, the veteran Arnaldo Nunes, and Haraldo ‘Babyface’ Goncalves, discover there have been several murders with exactly the same MO.
They are puzzled when they find out that the victims were passengers in business class on the same TAB flight 8101 from Miami to Sao Paulo.
The English country house party mystery brought up to date? But with a very Brazilian ending.

Leighton Gage uses Silva’s investigation into the lives and motives of the passengers to give us a superb portrait of some facets of life in Brazil. It may not be flattering to this fascinating country, but it gives the reader an exciting tense thriller with lots of dead ends, and red herrings, as Silva’s investigators close in on the perpetrator. To lighten the mood there is plenty of light hearted humour and backchat in the dialogue between the cops, but that does not delay the rapid pace of the plot.
A police procedural would not seem authentic without an objectionable boss, and in the sycophantic Sampaio this series has one of the most toadyish around.
With all the interesting detail, and the exotic location this is becoming one of my must read series.

Leighton Gage’s books, despite all the information about Brazil and the switching between different perspectives of the investigators, are very easy reading with a smooth flowing style. Therefore I was able to read the 281 ages of Every Bitter Thing in two sessions, with the only downside that I am now waiting eagerly for book number five in the series.
Thanks to the author and publishers, Soho Crime, for my ARC.

Read my reviews of the rest of the Mario Silva series:

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – I couldn’t agree more about Gage’s talent or about the way he portrays Brazil. I’m no expert but having been there myself I can attest to both the country’s fascination and its beauty. It is dangerous, too (although thankfully I’ve never really experienced the danger – certainly not as portrayed in these novels).

  2. Norman says:

    Margot- My son mentioned the beauty of the city, the wonderful food, and how expensive it was in Rio!
    I remember Leighton’s charming Brazilian wife complaining to him that his books give a very bad impression of a country, that has beautiful beaches, wonderful scenery, great footballers, and superb food.

  3. jennymilch says:

    I can’t wait to read this one! Thanks for the review.

  4. I won´t read this review right now because I am right in the middle of Leighton´s book 🙂

    A treat, as always.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s