New Year, New Beginnings, New Discoveries, New Books and New Friends. For me, 2012 is a very special year, as only weeks in I was introduced to the work of top-notch crime fiction author, Leighton Gage.
BLOOD OF THE WICKED introduces Gage’s Chief Inspector Mario Silva of the Brazilian Federal Police and begins with the assassination of a Catholic bishop. The bishop’s death, we later learn, was preceded by the ruthless murders of a poor laborer and his family. How are the two events related? And who killed whom? The book is a roller-coaster adventure, delving into the seemingly bottomless divide between a very poor majority and a super rich minority. The grim reality of the daily battle between Brazil’s “haves” and the “have-nots” is heart-breaking –and fascinating.
BURIED STRANGERS, the 2nd in the series, starts with the discovery of a clandestine cemetery within an urban forest. Silva travels from his home in the federal capital, to São Paulo, the largest city in the southern hemisphere, and unravels a complicated case where the solution is as gruesome as it is unexpected.
In DYING GASP, the disappearance of the granddaughter of a prominent official takes Silva and his crew to Brazil’s far northeast. There, in the Amazonian capital of Manaus, layer upon layer of discoveries reveal horrendous human cruelties against a background of white slavery and the exploitation of minors.
In this, my first “reading spree”, I’ve tackled three books, in succession, by the same author. And what you’re reading now marks another “first”, i.e. the longest and most comprehensive review I have ever done.
I’m dealing with all three of them at once. And, other than the fact that they’re not for the squeamish, there’s nothing bad to say about any of the books, so let me begin by listing the highlights – the things I liked the most:
Characters: Gage introduced a wide range of colourful characters, some playing more prominent roles than others. I do not know how he does it, but I got to know some of them quite well. Powerful emotions were aroused in me as I become really fond of a few and found myself loathing others with a passion. Some of Gage’s creations were wicked, nasty and evil. I badly wanted to see them punished, and I don’t think I’ll be giving away too much when I tell you that they almost always are.
Heroes are few and far in between, including Silva, a man with a strong moral code but a code, nonetheless, that recognizes the corrupt and ineffectual justice system in his country. He may not have the power to right all the wrongs in his world, but he is determined to try. Battling against his superiors, as well as a bunch of villains, Silva is a man on a mission who has also been motivated by vengeance of his own. I liked him, an awful lot!
Pace: All three books, especially the first and the third are fast-paced, packed with great action. The stories are such that they demand the readers to finish without interruption. But don’t try skipping from the first to the third. The second book is still a very good one. And it introduces a particularly evil character that comes back to haunt Silva in the third.
Plots: The plots are complex and intriguing. They explore a very wide range of Brazilian society, and we’re further rewarded with more than a glimpse of the country’s history, religion and social structures. I learned a great deal about a place I’ve never been. And despite the social disparity and political problems Gage presents, and despite the violence and dangers he exposes us to, the author hasn’t put me off on visiting Brazil. The country’s culture and beauty, as Gage makes clear, are things worth going for.
Sense of Humour: I did not expect to actually ‘enjoy’ these books, given their gritty story lines. BUT I did. Mr Gage’s sense of humour shone through the violence and grim reality, and I found myself smiling, and even laughing out loud, on more than one occasion.
Writing Style: Mr Gage is a master of words. I marveled at his ability to reach out and touch readers. Damn, I wish I could write that, I thought as I allowed myself to be totally absorbed by his brilliance.
Ending: Gage does a great job in bringing his stories to an end, which is hugely satisfying for someone like me, who desperately wants to see bad asses punished by whatever means possible. Sometimes, to my horror, I found myself approaching an ending where there just didn’t seem to be any hope for justice. But then, with a twist of fate, or circumstance, Mr. Gage managed to achieve it. Many authors fail miserably in making you believe that such things can happen outside of the world of fiction. Mr. Gage doesn’t.
The Author’s Notes are a perfect finishing touch, adding a little bit extra to his unique approach. These notes are a great help, in distinguishing fact from fiction and in highlighting some of the fundamental social issues that have been explored in the preceding pages. No matter how much effort the author puts into fictionalizing them, these, in their essence, are real tragedies and horrific crimes. This fact adds weight and power to all of Mr. Gage’s stories.
I hope I’ve managed to convince you what a first-rate crime writer Leighton Gage is, but if you still have any doubt, you can let the author himself convert you with his awesome Mario Silva series.
Author Bio: Leighton has lived in Australia, Europe, and South America and traveled widely in Asia and Africa. He visited Spain in the time of Franco, Portugal in the time of Salazar, South Africa in the time of apartheid, Chile in the time of Pinochet, Argentina in the time of the junta, Prague, East Germany, and Yugoslavia under the Communist yoke. He and his wife spend much of the year in a small town near São Paulo, and the rest of the time in Europe, and the United States, where they have children and grandchildren. You can visit him on the web at: http://www.leightongage.com and drop-in on the blog he does with six other authors of “international” crime fiction at: http://murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com/
And, available exclusive to Kindle readers outside of North America, there’s THE ESSENTIAL SILVA – VOLUME ONE, a compendium of all three books in a single volume: Amazon UK Kindle