Archive for January, 2014

THE WAYS OF EVIL MEN: LEIGHTON GAGE

Posted: January 29, 2014 in Brazil, review

51MCMWBMsjL._The Ways Of Evil Men is the seventh and very sadly the last book in the Mario Silva Investigation series set in Brazil. Author Leighton Gage died on July 26th, 2013 of pancreatic cancer.

The Awana tribe in the Brazilian state of Para has due to poverty and disease dwindled to 41 members. Amati and his son Raoni return from a hunting trip to find the rest of the tribe dead seemingly poisoned.

Jade Calmon, an attractive young woman working  for the FUNAI, FundacoNacional do Indio, the federal government’s Indian Foundation, comes upon the couple and takes Amati back to the frontier town of Azevedo and asks Borges the head of the local police to investigate the genocide. Unfortunately most of the townspeople want the Indian reservation closed down in order to exploit the natural resources, and assume nothing will be done by Borges and the nearest federal cop in Belem. But the citizens of Azevedo are due a surprise, because Jade is an old school friend of the niece of Nelson Sampaio, the Director of Brazil’s Federal Police, and he sends Mario Silva and his team to investigate. Meanwhile one of the town’s richest oligarchs is murdered and it is convenient to believe that the Indian Amati is the culprit.

Chief Inspector Mario Silva, an honest but pragmatic cop, leads a fine team in this series. They are Arnaldo Nunes, Silva’s longtime sidekick, LG_LR_RGB_1Haraldo”Babyface” Goncalves, Hector Costa in charge of the Sao Paulo office, and Gilda Caropresso, an assistant medical examiner and Hector’s fiancee. And in this novel they have the assistance of determined journalist Maura Mandel, Jade’s best friend. A mutual attraction develops between Goncalves and Maura that would probably have developed in future books. Mario and his team question the group of wealthy people who run the frontier town of Azevedo, uncovering hatred, murder, conspiracy, infidelity and corruption.

Readers of this series will have been entertained, excited and educated about Brazil’s problems; it is a vast very wealthy country with that wealth concentrated in the hands of a very few. The books written with great clarity are full of social commentary as well as scenes of tension and action. Leighton’s ability was to sum up a situation and a character in a sentence.

His linen trousers were freshly pressed, there wasn’t a scratch on his polished boots, his wristwatch was a stainless steel Rolex, and he was using a cologne Hector had previously smelled exclusively on politicians-a sure sign it was expensive.

The Ways Of Evil Men is a fitting climax to these excellent novels as it discusses the genocide of indigenous populations, and the subsequent destruction of the rainforest by loggers and farmers. While in the crisp narrative the machismo society and Brazil’s widespread nepotism is challenged by the strong female characters, and the incorruptible cops. Mario Silva is a man who believes in justice and helping the poor and weak, and that is the factor that makes reading these books so inspiring. Silva puts the human rights of unrepresented helpless victims before those of a vicious criminal class, and his other important characteristic is that he thinks kids are God’s most precious gift.

I suspect that Leighton put a lot of himself into the character of Mario Silva, both will be sorely missed.

There is a useful list of the key characters at the start of the book, and interesting author’s notes at the end. 

The trees in that rainforest  produce more than twenty percent of the world’s oxygen. We can’t afford to lose it. 

From the author’s notes.

Read my reviews of the Mario Silva series:
 

515Lxi9mZ8L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_Three couples from Terra Nova, Visby, who are close friends take brief trips together each summer without their children. They have 256px-Gotland_mapgone horse riding in Iceland and bicycled through Provence, and this year they would attend the annual Ingmar Bergman festival week on the island of Faro and then go on to see the young guillemots  at Stora Karslo. The friends are John, an American bar owner, his red haired model wife Beata, Andrea Dahlberg and her film director husband Sam, and the three time married Hakan with his beautiful younger wife Stina, who was adopted as a child from Vietnam.

The group of friends from Terra Nova found seats at a big table outdoors. The enticing aroma of grilled lamb drifted over the crowded restaurant. 

‘Great,’ exclaimed Sam as he sat down. ‘What a perfect evening. Don’t you think so, sweetheart?’ 

 

When tragedy strikes detectives Anders Knutas and his deputy Karin Jacobsson investigate while dealing with their own personal problems. In this book journalist Johan Berg, who was a major character in the earlier books, takes only a minor part as he is in the Swedish fashion on paternity leave. 

This is the seventh book in a fine series set on the island of Gotland off the east coast of Sweden. One feature of this series is that the personal relationships between the characters are just as important to the narrative as the criminal investigations. In the earlier books Johan’s affair with Emma, and their subsequent marriage, was a major part of the plot and in the last two books Karin’s past history of rape and the adoption of her baby many years before is a major theme. Anders Knutas is also having marriage problems, and is confused about his job and his responsibilities because Karin Jacobsson committed a serious breach of procedure in the previous book. 

I think my attempt to summarise may have given a clue as to the minor problem I had with this novel. It is well written with good descriptive writing, an easy to read translation from Tiina Nunnally, and good characterisation but there is just so much going on that I was at times a little lost. I am not keen on the format of short chapters changing rapidly from one perspective to another. It worked in the climax where it was successful in raising the tension, but I felt it was overdone because it broke my concentration and resulted in my reading becoming episodic. 

‘Hakan….’ she began, seeming at a loss for words. ‘ There must be some sort of misunderstanding. Stina wasn’t called in and she didn’t fly to Bangkok. She’s expected back on the job tomorrow at five a.m. I don’t understand….’

I was also amused by the naivete of these provincial police as it took them about 250 pages to work out what might have been going on between six attractive individuals in Scandinavia. 

My reservations about The Double Silence won’t stop me reading the next book in the series, because author Mari Jungstedt has me intrigued as to what will happen to the main characters Anders Knutas and Karin Jacobsson. 

 519EtidIF6L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51WrzjbXCpL._SL500_AA300_51DiUU6W8XL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51EFLbvyyYL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51yeLmS3pVL._SL500_AA300_

 

 

 

Karen at Euro Crime is running a feature on the Euro Crime Reviewers 5 favourite reads of 2013

My own five favourite books of 2013 were:

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas translator Sian Reynolds

This book was joint winner of the CWA International Dagger as Vargas intrigues and teases the reader with more Gallic quirkiness. 

An Officer and A Spy by Robert Harris  

A superb novel retelling the true story of the Dreyfus Affair from the perspective of Georges Picquart. The truth proves to be more astonishing than any fictional plot dreamt up by an author.

Norwegian By Night by Derek B. Miller  

A brilliant novel about loss and ageing that made me both laugh and cry. Definitely one not to be missed and on many people’s best of year lists.

Summertime All The Cats Are Bored by Phillipe Georget translated by Steven Rendall

My discovery of the year, and hopefully this debut novel will be the start of a fine police procedural series set in Perpignan.

Linda, As In The Linda Murder by Leif G.W.Persson translated by Neil Smith

The first in the Evert Backstrom trilogy featuring an obnoxious character you won’t easily forget.

************ 

 There were several fine books that after some thought and a lot of prevarication just failed to make that top five.

These included:

Blessed Are Those That Thirst by Anne Holt trans Anne Bruce-The second book in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series

Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes- A psychological thriller that gripped this reader.

Black Bear by Aly Monroe- The return of Peter Cotton in a spy story set in post war America.

Police by Jo Nesbo trans Don Bartlett- A fine come back by Jo Nesbo after a couple of novels that were in my opinion not up to his usual standard.

Alex by Pierre LeMaitre trans Frank Wynne- A French police procedural with a clever twist and the joint winner of the CWA International Dagger. 

The Strangler’s Honeymoon by Hakan Nesser trans Laurie Thompson- The Van Veeteren series is consistently satisfying with one of the most interesting team of detectives ever created.

 Moving on to new publications in 2014.

Thanks to the hardworking Karen at Euro Crime for producing a lengthy list of the new releases in 2014. I am particularly looking forward to reading:

Deon Meyer, Cobra

Asa Larsson, The Second Deadly Sin

Hakan Nesser, The G File

Leif G.W. Persson, Falling Freely As If In A Dream

Liza Marklund, Borderline  

Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman, Winter Siege

Dead Lions won the prestigious CWA Gold Dagger as best crime fiction novel of 2013. It is the second book in the River Cartwright series following 51J18zWw78L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_on from Slow Horses. The central theme of these books is that in modern Britain it is too difficult to sack incompetent spies as they probably would take the government to an employment tribunal. So those that screw up, for example by leaving a top secret disk on a tube train, are shuffled off to Slough House where they are known as “slow horses”, a deliberate pathetic pun. There they are given boring clerical tasks such as counting paperclips in the hope they will give in their notice. But many are keen to get back into the field, complete a mission successfully and hopefully revive their failed careers. 

A broadsheet’s Beautiful Homes column had lately informed her that a little imagination and a small amount of cash could transform even the tiniest apartment into a compact, space efficient dream-dwelling. Unfortunately, that “small amount” was large enough that if she ever laid her hands on it, she’d have moved somewhere bigger instead. As ever damp washing was tonight’s motif.

An old Cold War-era minor MI5 operative Dickie Bow is found dead on a bus outside Oxford. The boss of Slough House the overweight irascible Jackson Lamb believes Bow has been murdered and begins an investigation. Meanwhile James Webb, who comes from the Regent’s Park HQ of MI5, recruits Min Harper and Louisa Guy, slow horses and lovers to make contact in a strictly hush hush operation with Russian billionaire oligarch Arkady Pashkin, a potential future occupant of the Kremlin. 

These two threads of a complex plot in which nothing is quite as it seems will come together in a thrilling climax. Is Dead Lions a rather clever and brilliant parody of Le Carre’s Smiley novels? There is certainly a lot of internal skulduggery and competition both at MI5 HQ and within Slough House, but it is wittily updated to the modern era. Any British spy novel is going to be compared with the work of John Le Carre, and this one compares favourably. The characters especially Jackson Lamb, the determined Louisa Guy, and IT man Roderick Ho are well drawn and sympathetic in their fashion; the plot is complex full of Russians and spooks; and modern England from chocolate box villages to crowded London’s unfortunate architectural landmarks are painted with accuracy and subtle humour. I can recommend Dead Lions as an amusing read with a plot full of intrigue, red herrings and misdirections. 

51OADLTxBaL._515Lxi9mZ8L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_Happy New Year! My reading plans for this month are to read the seventh book in Mari Jungstedt’s Anders Knutas series, 51MCMWBMsjL._51PgXyPu1LL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_and three books kindly sent to me by the publishers.

Europa Editions sent me the third book in the intriguing Commissario Ricciardi series by Maurizio De Giovanni entitled Everyone In Their Place set in Naples in 1931. Soho Crime sent The Fire Dance by retired dentist Helene Tursten, a possible contender for the 2015 Petrona Award, and The Ways of Evil Men by my friend Leighton Gage.

Sadly this will be the final outing for Chief Inspector Mario Silva of the Brazilian Federal Police as Leighton died on July 26th 2013 of pancreatic cancer. I had met Leighton, and his lovely wife Eide, at Crime Fest in 2009, and we had kept in contact with him giving me valuable advice especially during the first few months of 2013 when my son was working in Brazil.

I am looking forward to reading all these four books, and also reviewing my current enjoyable read Dead Lions by Mike Herron, the winner of the 2013 CWA Gold Dagger.