Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Vine in the Blood by Leighton Gage

Leighton Gage’s first three Chief Inspector Mario Silva crime novels, beginning with Blood of the Wicked, were extremely graphic, violent stories of Brazil and Silva’s investigations. Although they were always fascinating, providing views of a Brazil that few of us knew, I’m sure some readers were not happy with the graphic nature of the books. Crime and murder are not pretty. But, with the fourth book, Gage toned down the violence. And, now, with the fifth, A Vine in the Blood, he gives us a police procedural that concentrates on the investigation, not on the graphic nature of murder. Now, he’s able to play up the personalities of the police investigators even more.

The kidnapping of a wealthy woman, Juraci Santos, would normally not bring out the resources of all of the Brazilian Federal Police. But, Juraci Santos was the mother of Tico, “the Artist.” And, with the FIFA World Cup less than two weeks away, it was important that the Artist be happy. Brazil’s success in the World Cup was dependent on Tico. For the first time in sixty years, the country would be hosting the World Cup. No one in the country wanted to lose to Argentina, their bitter rival. If Chief Inspector Mario Silva failed to find the kidnappers, and the Artist was unable to play, or played poorly, the wrath of the country and the government would fall on Silva’s boss, the Director in charge, Nelson Sampaio.

As Federal Police, Silva’s team can work anywhere in the country. Silva’s nephew, Hector Costa, is in charge of the São Paulo office, where the kidnapping occurred. He and his team investigated the scene of the crime, where Juraci Santos was kidnapped and two young maids, sisters, were killed. They did the initial work on a case that took strange turns. As the entire nation watched, the case involved the football world, a model with a great deal of klout, organized crime, samba schools, an honest judge, and a private investigator. Mario Silva never had a case in which the entire nation had a vested interest.

Crime always involves politics in Leighton Gage’s Brazil, and A Vine in the Blood is no exception. There’s constant pressure and media attention on this case. But, this case allows Gage to focus some of the attention on the investigators, from Silva with his alcoholic wife, to “Babyface” Gonçalves, the attractive officer who looks much younger than his years, to Arnaldo Nunes and Mara Carta, who constantly bicker. For the first time, Gage’s crime novel reminds me of one of the best, Ed McBain and his cops of the 87th Precinct.

It’s been fascinating to watch the changes in Leighton Gage’s writing. He’s still the master of Brazil crime novels. He still brings to life the passions and interests of the country. Last year, with Every Bitter Thing, he put more emphasis on the Federal Police and less on the brutality of the crimes. A Vine in the Blood continues that progression, combining the best of the international crime novel with the personalities and stories of the best police procedurals.

Leighton Gage’s website is www.leightongage.com

A Vine in the Blood by Leighton Gage. Soho Press, ©2011. ISBN 9781616950040 (hardcover), 289p.

FTC Full Disclosure – The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Rosemary said...

Lesa, I have never heard of this writer and he sounds interesting, though I don't think I would like the violence of the earlier books. It's always fascinating to learn about other cultures and countries via a good story (that's one of the reasons I love Louise Penny).

I am still struggling on with Pemberley - I will finish it, but then I think it may be heading to Oxfam.

As someone new here, I am probably asking questions about things that everyone already knows, but have you ever read/reviewed any Ian Rankin or Alexander McCall Smith? They are two of my favourite Edinburgh-based writers (the one who makes up the 'famous living Edinburgh writers' trilogy is JK Rowling). My son also very much likes Stuart MacBride, whose detective stories are set in Aberdeen, where we used to live. They are too gory for me but he's a good writer.

I have just been reading some of your archived posts; what a varied and interesting life you lead - you sound like the librarian from heaven. I would love to have more things of the type you arrange at our local libraries, but on the whole (and much as I love them) they are very pedestrian. When I left school I wanted to be a librarian, but my mother told me I would be bored - I still don't know why I listened to her, as I know I wouldn't have been, whilst being a lawyer just about bored me to tears!


Lesa said...

Hi Rosemary,

I'm more than willing to answer questions! Thank you for caring enough to ask.

You'll make it with Pemberley, but you won't really be happy when you finish, other than to have finished. It doesn't get better.

I have not read/reviewed Ian Rankin or Alexander McCall Smith, although I have read all the Harry Potter books! I think I'd like Ian Rankin's books, when I can find the time to get to them. I just don't find myself interested in McCall Smith's books nor his Botswana setting. Sorry. That's a flaw in me, not the books.

I'm afraid you're right. I've always loved my life as a librarian. I have a sister who is a lawyer. She enjoyed her job until the last couple years, when it became too political. I think I'm much happier working with books, authors, libraries, and library patrons, despite all the budget problems in the last three years.

Rosemary said...

Lesa, thanks for your reply. Actually I don't like the Botswana books either - the ones I love are the Scotland Street stories, the first of which is '44 Scotland Street'. However, I do know that they are not everyone's cup of tea. I've always thought I enjoyed them more because I know all the settings and can instantly recognise many of the Edinburgh 'types' that McCall Smith throws in, but I understand that many Americas also like them.

I have only read some of the H Potter books, because my youngest daughter decided half way through that she would rather read them herself than have me doing all the voices! I was sadly no longer required. I think one day I must sit down and work through them all properly. JKR's (over)use of adverbs used to grate on me a bit, but I do think she's a wonderful woman, and a genius at plotting.

Lesa said...

You're right, Rosemary. She's a true genius at plotting. And, I loved her characters. As you follow my blog, you'll learn I'm a big fan of strong characters. If the characters "live" for me, the book will succeed. If the characters are cardboard, or I can't stand them, I probably will not finish a book.

Nancy said...

Thanks for your honest review, Lesa. Lots of graphic violence and gory details are not for me, so I won't be reading this series.
To each their own, but I must say that I love the AMS Botswana books. I've do prefer the 44 Scotland series and also like the Dalhousie books. I must try the Ian Rankin books.

Rosemary said...

Nancy, I also like the Dalhousie books, but I do get a bit riled with Isobel's perfect life (money, lover, career, baby, friendship with all the great and good of Edinburgh......); the redeeming feature is, as ever, the city. Have you read the latest Scotland St - Bertie Plays The Blues?

Christiane said...

Here in the Flemish part of Belgium AND in the Netherlands we also know Leighton Gage!
Three books of him are now translated into Dutch.
Early 2011 I didn't know the autor.
Since I've been reading his first thriller I bought the other ones.
You Americans are lucky you have 'A Vine in the Blood'!!
We always have to wait for the translation. The next one is 'Every bitter thing', planned to come out in February.
We wait, we wait...