Archive for the ‘Brazil’ Category

51OADLTxBaL._I requested an ARC of The Fire Dance by Helene Tursten because I had enjoyed the first book in the series, Detective Inspector Huss. The Fire Dance is number six in this series set in Goteborg, Sweden’s second largest city.

I was a little surprised to see that a blurb from NPR’s Fresh Air on the back cover stating that this ‘mystery holds its own alongside the best feminine hard-boiled novels currently being written by Englishwomen Val McDermid and Liza Cody….’.

Is this the first time that Val McDermid from Kirkcaldy, Fife [a lifelong Raith Rovers supporter along with Ian Rankin and ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown] ever been called an Englishwoman? 

Fifteen years before the main events in The Fire Dance Irene Huss was asked to question a child Sophie Malmborg, whose stepfather had been burned to death in a fire. The theory was that Irene, a mother with twin daughters, would relate better to the young girl, but Sophie would not talk to anyone and the case was shelved and the fire explained as the stepfather falling asleep with a cigarette.

Now fifteen years later Sophie, aged 26, has been found dead, burned by fire after having disappeared for three weeks. Irene still happily married to chef Krister with teenage twins , Jenny and Katerina is assigned the case. There are several sub plots involving a gang war involving Hell’s Angels, who are mostly from Latin America, Irene’s worries about her daughters, and rather long accounts of the relationships and activities of Sophie’s dysfunctional family. 

Sophie is a dancer and has choreographed a ballet called The Fire Dance which has moves from the Brazilian dance and combat system capoeira. Does this hold the solution to the present murder and the case in the past? 

The Fire Dance was a fairly good police procedural with a lot of detail about Irene’s family life, but sadly this book was a disappointment to me because the plot was frankly a bit thin. My attention frequently wavered onto the Winter Olympics, and the terrible weather. Perhaps I have just read too much crime fiction with too many dysfunctional Swedish families. This one had little tension, and seemingly several characters were inserted  just to pad out the predictable narrative. I am sure that several books 2-5 in the Irene Huss series are better reads than The Fire Dance, but when a book contains the sentence:

“What’s a suppository?” asked the Superintendent. 

I think there is either something wrong with the translation, or the Goteborg Murder Squad live a very sheltered life. 


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:

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. 

Leighton Gage

Posted: July 29, 2013 in Brazil, notes, review
LG_LR_RGB_1I was shocked to learn of the death of Leighton Gage. Although I had only met Leighton once in person at Crime Fest 2009 in Bristol I had emailed him many times and had come to regard him as a friend. Leighton’s charming Brazilian wife Eide said to me at Crimefest that I must have a bad view of her country after reading her husband’s books, and that Brazil also had wonderful beaches, superb food and beautiful people. A few years ago Leighton summed up the enigma that was his adopted country when in an online interview he stated that; “People think that Brazil is a poor country, but in fact it is a very rich country with a lot of very poor people in it.” 
His books are full of wit, sharp dialogue and insights into the problems faced by Brazil. There is violence in his stories but it is never gratuitous. His books are easy reads but never lightweight in their subject matter, and a good blend of entertainment and education. I understand there will be one more book in the Mario Silva series due in january [The Ways of Evil Men], but it is incredibly sad that this will be the end of this series. Leighton will be greatly  missed by all his friends and readers. He was a genuine nice guy. My deepest condolences to Eide and his family.
Read my reviews of the Mario Silva series:

51WrzjbXCpL._SL500_AA300_pickofthemonth2012I read more books last month than I ever thought possible. The weather kept us in a lot of the time, and many of the books were easy to read, and only one was near 500 pages. There were two non-fiction books as well as six crime fiction:

The Fall of France-The Nazi Invasion of 1940: Julian Jackson

I have read several accounts of this debacle including the classic 1969 book by Alistair Horne, To Lose a Battle: France 1940. I hope the current Franco-British alliance is more successful in their latest adventures in Francophone Africa, but I doubt it.

Interestingly in 1931 Time magazine chose the “calm, masterful” Pierre Laval as Man of the Year. He was Prime Minister of France four times. The collapse of France in 1940, and subsequent armistice, lead to the establishment in unoccupied France of the Vichy regime. After the Allied victory Pierre Laval was found guilty of high treason and executed by firing squad in 1945.

The Real Jane Austen-A life in small things: Paula Byrne

We have just passed the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice so I thought this book was an appropriate read to mark this important date in English literature. The book is full of interesting anecdotes and details about life in the Georgian and Regency period, and many of the sites associated with Jane Austen and mentioned in the book have a special significance for us.

We would frequently stop at the Jane Austen Museum at Chawton, in Hampshire, to break our journey down from London to Gosport visiting my in laws. This was in the early 1980s well before the Colin Firth TV production created a new following for Mr Darcy and Jane Austen’s books. Many years ago my wife lived in Winchester, where Jane lived her last few weeks and is buried in the cathedral. My son went to university in Bath, where Jane lived from 1801-1806 and where she set two of her novels, and I worked in Teignmouth for 15 years, where Jane holidayed in 1802. Our first holiday was at Lyme Regis, where Jane and her family visited in 1803, and 1804, and where Louisa Musgrave falls from some steps on the Cobb in Persuasion. 

Well that’s enough literary stuff for one post. The crime fiction books I read were:

Standing in Another Man’s Grave: Ian Rankin 

Spies of Warsaw: Alan Furst

Blessed Are Those Who Thirst: Anne Holt 

Perfect Hatred: Leighton Gage

Linda, As In The Linda Murder: Leif G.W. Persson  [a review will appear at Euro Crime in due course]

Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn [I will be posting about this phenomenon in the next few days]

Some very good reads but the best by a whisker was Linda, As In The Linda Murder by Leif G.W. Persson. 


Posted: January 18, 2013 in Brazil, review
51tCiXym7fL._SL500_AA300_Perfect Hatred is the sixth book in the Chief Inspector Mario Silva series which is set in Brazil.
Many books published in the USA get recommendations from various newspapers, but Perfect Hatred has a blurb on the cover from no less than the Wall Street Journal which reads: “Hard -hitting, atmospheric… a world-class procedural series.”
An analysis and opinion I can endorse. Each of the Mario Silva investigation series deals with some of the numerous problems which face the Brazilian Federal Police in that vast country.
Perfect Hatred blends the investigation of a suicide bomb outrage at the American Consulate in Sao Paulo, with the separate search for the person behind the assassination in Curitiba of Plinio Saldana, a reformist candidate for the Governorship of Parana Province. With these twin tragedies occurring within hours of each other Mario Silva is forced to split his experienced team of his nephew Hector, his longtime friend Arnaldo Nunes, Haraldo “Babyface” Goncalves, Mara Carta, Hector’s Chief of Intelligence, Lefkowitz the forensics expert, and Danusa, who during her time in the Israeli Defence Forces did something in logistics and supply. The team gradually work through a systematic questioning of witnesses and relatives in an attempt to track down those behind these horrific crimes. When Nestor, the candidate’s bodyguard, wounded in the assassination is murdered in the Santa Cruz Hospital Mario Silva suspects a political conspiracy.
As the investigation proceeds it turns out that Plinio Saldana, has a mean corrupt father, a useless brother, both as capable of murder as his electoral opponent the corrupt Governor Abbas. Plinio’s wife Stella becomes the leading candidate but she is not quite the good Samaritan they first thought.
Taggants in the C4 used in the American consulate bombing trace the explosive to the Paraguayan Army, and the hunt for the perpetrators of the Saldana murder also leads to the TBA [Tri-Border -Area] where Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil meet, near the magnificent Iguacu Falls. This is coincidentally home to one of the largest Muslim communities in South America. Perfect Hatred is mixture of corrupt politicians, police on the take, Paraguayan smugglers, terrorists, plus jealous wives and mistresses, all blended together in an exciting story in an exotic setting. The situation is complicated by a third strand to the plot as a vicious and wealthy crook is plotting to kill a prosecutor and Mario Silva. In addition the reader is given a large amount of factual information about Brazil, its immigrant population, and in this book the cross border relations with Paraguay. Leighton Gage’s fund of knowledge about Brazil gives the books an accurate atmosphere. 
What sets the Mario Silva series apart is that the smooth writing style makes for easy reading, the plots ring true in a country with so many problems, and author  never pulls his punches and tackles difficult themes. 
“In case you guys never noticed, politics and favoritism is what Brasilia is all about.” 
Read my reviews of the rest of the Mario Silva series:
My copy was an ARC but this is a series I would not miss even if I did not receive a free copy. 

I discovered this meme at Bernadette’s Reactions to Reading and have decided to expand it a little as choosing just one book is tricky in some categories. 

1] Best Book of 2011 originally written in English

The difficulty in choosing a best book even when you read only 19 originally written in English is remembering the impact a book you read in January or February had on you in comparison with one you read two weeks ago. But I would vote for:

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin 

2] Best Books of 2011 translated into English

I read some brilliant translated fiction this year.We are so lucky to have at this time a group of superb translators able to bring these books to an English readership.  

My choices are two very different but equally exceptional books: 

Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen translated by Lisa Hartford aka Tiina Nunnaly 

Trackers by Deon Meyer translated by Laura Seegers 

3] Worst Book of 2011

Most authors regard their books like children, and get very upset at negative reviews. Therefore as part of my New Year resolution to be kinder to everyone, except useless politicians and biased journalists, I am not going to select a book in this category. 😉

4] Most disappointing books

There were a couple that fitted that category. 

The Troubled Man-Henning Mankell: which was very depressing to read if you were a man of a certain age facing some of the problems Wallander does in the book. Actually he is younger than me! Was Henning Mankell suffering a Conan Doyle moment with his popular protagonist? It seemed like it.

River of Shadows-Valerio Varesi: I expected a more appealing protagonist, Soneri was dull and the plot development was catatonic. 

5] Most surprising in a good way

Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was so hyped and had won the CWA Gold Dagger and also been nominated for an Edgar that I was very surprised when it was in fact very good. I rarely agree with prize judges, with the exception of two who weren’t involved in these awards, so it was indeed a pleasant surprise to enjoy this book so much.

6] Book you recommended to people most

The book I recommended to people during the year was Nemesis by Jo Nesbo translated by Don Bartlett. Several people I know had started with The Redbreast and found the WWII backstory  heavy going, and I encouraged them to continue with the series as Nemesis and The Devil’s Star are in my opinion still among the best Nordic crime fiction I have read. 

7] Best series you discovered

This is a difficult one because I think usually you need to read two or three books to discover a series which you are going to stick with through to the end. I have already “discovered” several great series in previous years, which of course I carried on reading this year. Hakan Nesser’s idiosyncratic Van Veeteren stories, Leighton Gage’s Mario Silva and the Brazilian Federal police investigations, Rebecca Cantrell’s Hannah Vogel in pre-war Germany series, John Lawton’s social history of England Troy series, Donna Leon’s Brunettis, Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano mysteries, Ernesto Mallo’s Inspector Lascano’s struggles in Argentina, Fred Vargas and her Inspector Adamsberg, Asa Larsson and her Rebecka Martinssson cases, Jo Nesbo and Harry Hole, Martin Edwards and Hannah Scarlett, Aly Monroe’s Peter Cotton …….the list goes on and on. 

But this year I discovered Jussi Adler Olsen’s Department Q in Mercy and Arne Dahl’s Intercrime series in Misterioso.  Both books translated by the charming Tiina Nunnally.

I hope the publishers arrange for both these series to get translated  in a timely fashion, and the correct order, because they could prove the next big thing in Nordic crime fiction. 

[To be continued]


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:

Samba and Tango

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Argentina, Brazil

Go west young man….

Posted: November 23, 2011 in Argentina, Brazil, Southern States, USA

I have just started reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, a book set in Mississippi. I have driven across various parts of the Border South including Northern Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina and immediately recognised  the descriptions of the small towns, and the people who inhabit them.

He passed a clothing store that had gone so long without customers it’d briefly become a vintage clothing store without changing stock.

I also have two more western hemisphere books to read in the next few weeks. 

A Vine in the Blood: Leighton Gage

Sweet Money: Ernesto Mallo