Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Blood of the Wicked by Leighton GageBuy from Amazon.com
Blood of the Wicked by
A Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation

Soho Crime (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-470-2 (1569474702)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-470-9 (9781569474709)
Publication Date: January 2008
List Price: $24.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): In the remote Brazilian town of Cascatas do Pontal, where landless peasants are confronting the owners of vast estates, the the bishop arrives by helicopter to consecrate a new church and is assassinated.

Mario Silva, Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters of the Federal Police of Brazil, is dispatched to the interior to find the killer. The Pope himself has called Brazil’s president; the pressure is on Silva to perform. Assisted by his nephew, Hector Costa, also a federal policeman, Silva must battle the state police and a corrupt judiciary as well as criminals who prey on street kids, the warring factions of the Landless League, the big landowners and the Church itself, in order to solve the initial murder and several brutal killings that follow. Justice is hard to come by. An old priest, a secret liberation theologist, finally metes it out.

Review: Leighton Gage's debut novel, Blood of the Wicked, is a compelling mystery set in modern Brazil amid the conflict between the few large land owners and the many landless in the country.

Mario Silva, the Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters of the Federal Police, is sent to a remote village in Brazil to investigate the murder of a prominent bishop who was there to bless the opening of a new church. The murder may have political overtones: the bishop had taken a hard line against liberation theologians, members of the Catholic Church who were involved in the struggle for economic and political justice - which in Brazil meant the ongoing, and often violent, dispute over redistribution of idle land from the wealthy land owners to the landless poor. Upon arrival, Silva finds himself at odds with almost everyone, from the police department to the parish priests to the local residents, both rich and poor, who consider him an outsider. But Silva, together with his nephew Hector Costa, is determined to discover what secrets lie beneath the surface of this volatile region.

There are many reasons to recommend Blood of the Wicked. The principal characters, Mario Silva and Hector Costa, are fully developed with conflicted backgrounds that serve them well in their current positions as Federal officials. The writing is first rate, descriptive and atmospheric. The primary plot is multi-dimensional, complex and intricate, yet surprisingly easy to follow, no small accomplishment for a book with a strong and varied cast of secondary characters, each participating in intersecting subplots.

Yet there are a few disturbing aspects as well. The body count numbers well into the double digits which seems excessive, even for the brutal environment Silva finds himself in. Some of the deaths seem unnecessary, almost gratuitous, and do not advance the plot in any meaningful way. More troublesome is the motive for the bishop's murder. The author could have taken any one of several different and credible directions to account for the killing, possibly opting for something daring and different, yet in the end chose the safest approach which in this case was also the most predictable and most disappointing (and least interesting).

On balance, however, Blood of the Wicked is a terrific mystery, a strongly written and powerful novel that will be remembered long after the final pages are read.

Special thanks to Soho Crime for providing a copy of Blood of the Wicked for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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