Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mystery Book Review: Buried Strangers by Leighton Gage

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Buried Strangers by Leighton Gage. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Buried Strangers by Leighton Gage

by
A Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation

Soho Crime (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-614-4 (1569476144)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-614-7 (9781569476147)
Publication Date: January 2010
List Price: $13.00

Review: Mario Silva, Chief Inspector of Criminal Matters for the Sao Paulo Federal Police, is confronted with two ostensibly different cases, one of murder in his own country, the other of missing persons in another, in the aptly titled Buried Strangers, the second mystery in this series by Leighton Gage.

When "Mop", a playful dog, finds a human bone partially buried on the grounds near a rain forest on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Silva sends his team out to explore the area. What they find is the body of a young woman buried in a small narrow grave, clearly dug by hand. Upon further scrutiny, they discover several -- many, actually -- similar graves, some with a single person, others with what appears to be complete families. All the bodies are naked, stripped of any identifying clothing but bearing an unusual mark. The chief medical examiner tells Silva that the bodies are at least three years old, and have no obvious indications of trauma. That is, there are no bullet wounds, signs of blunt force trauma, nothing to suggest they were murdered. Oddly, though, all the victims had their chests cut open with precision, using what seems to have been a surgical instrument. Still, it appears to Silva that the victims must have been killed, possibly by a single person, a serial killer. And if so, by Brazil's all-time great serial killer.

Separately, Silva is also investigating a number of missing persons, people who were customers of a local travel agency who subsequently disappeared after arriving at their destinations in the US. It seems the agency was providing a means for entering the US without the necessary documents. In at least one case, a young man sent a post card from Miami to his mother, but was never heard from again. Silva senses a connection between these two cases, but there's no obvious evidence to link them.

Buried Strangers is a swiftly paced mystery, one often filled with dread as to what Silva will discover next. That it draws so much emotion from the reader is telling in and of itself. Silva is an interesting character, one who must navigate the treacherous waters of Brazilian politics, which seem fraught with almost as much danger -- or at least risk -- as the criminal cases he investigates. He's demanding of his team, yet sensitive to their needs and the victims of the crimes. A police procedural of the highest order, and in many ways a mesmerizing tale of intrigue, Buried Strangers is highly recommended.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Buried Strangers and to Soho Press for providing a trade paperback edition of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): In the jungle on the outskirts of São Paulo, Mario Silva and his team find hundreds of unknown corpses, often buried in family groups, and they learn that many would-be travelers to North America who used a local tourist agency have never reached their destinations. The motive for these murders is completely contemporary and completely appalling.

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