Sunday, February 17, 2013

Brazilian Detection: Leighton Gage, PERFECT HATRED

It's been a bitter cold day here in northern Vermont, with the temperature lingering between 9 and 12 degrees F, and a stiff wind generating subzero wind chill effects. Good thing we've got plenty of books here, for an indoor day ... especially one with Leighton Gage's newest Brazilian police procedural, PERFECT HATRED.

Gage's sixth title to feature Chief Inspector Mario Silva also includes Silva's nephew Hector Costa, who partners with Israeli-trained Danusa Marcus to investigate what's clearly a terrorist bombing during an enormous political demonstration of some three hundred thousand people. Well planned, executed almost perfectly, the bombing would be a lot harder to crack if a local policeman hadn't needed to purchase a "sorry" gift for his wife, ducking into a shop just after seeing the about-to-be perpetrator and observing some odd details. "One of those headscarf things" is the expected garb of the bomber -- but the baby involved, with skin of a different color compared to the adult in the headscarf, sends the investigation into high gear.

When the Chief Inspector arrives to help with the needed task force, he's only able to spend a matter of minutes at the Federal Police building with Hector -- an assassination becomes a high-profile case when the Chief Inspector's politically agile boss puts it at top priority. It's frustrating for both teams -- but as Silva soon discovers, the assassination in fact is anything but ordinary:
"Go back to the beginning of the tape," Silva said. ... "This time, pay attention to the expressions on [the shooter] Cataldo's face."

"Why? What am I going to see?"

"When he approaches [the victiom] PlĂ­nio," Silva said, "Cataldo looks nervous, but determined. He's grim, but his jaw is set. After he shoots, his expression turns to one of horror."

"That doesn't make sense."

"No, it doesn't. He drops his gun hand to his side and stares."
It gets even more complicated and surprising. Silva's caught the scent of something peculiar behind the face of this crime, and the politics of the victim's widow, Stella Saldana, leap into view quickly. Soon there's a cresting wave of money and inheritance to motivate the crime, too.

Readers who already know Gage's series won't be surprised when the two investigations begin to connect in odd ways. Gage also moves the action to a border setting where new forms of crime flower. Intense action, swift changes of direction, and Chief Inspector Silva's determinedly anti-political team make A PERFECT HATRED a page-turner with fascinating revelations of place and politics, not to mention modern terrorism and its manipulations. One particular pleasure of following Silva and his nephew is that advances in the detection here are rarely accidents; they are instead the satisfying results of pushing for more data and more connections. And the Author's Notes at the finale are almost as startling as the plot twists in terms of revelations.

A quick side note: Gage's series has often dipped into the human stew of Brazil's favelas, the ridge-top city slums of Rio De Janeiro where crime foments and housing is so substandard that there aren't even addresses for mail delivery. It's been fascinating over the past few months to learn of the changes in the favelas, perhaps propelled by Brazil's preparations for hosting the 2014 Olympics. Look here for an overview -- and, knowing how Gage's crime fiction accentuates Brazil's reality, I'm bracing for a return to that earlier setting, wondering how Chief Inspector Mario Silva and his team will adapt.

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