Gloria's Bookshelf.

Author:Feit, Gloria
Position:Book review

Blood Moon

Garry Disher

Soho Press

853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003

9781569476314, $14.00,

To say that Adrian Wishart was a control freak would be an understatement. It is, therefore, perhaps understandable that when he reports his wife missing, the police are less concerned than Mr. Wishart might have hoped. After all, his wife has not been missing for very long. His fears, however, ultimately prove to be well-founded. But is he in fact the person responsible for his wife's death? They'd only been married for three years. He was known to have been extremely jealous, and given to following his wife around and keeping close track of her movements at all times, whether she was at work or having lunch with a girlfriend. But he appears to have an airtight alibi for the relevant time frame.

The police are already involved in another investigation: the severe beating of the chaplain at a prestigious boarding school, who is also the head of a local fundamentalist church. The victim is in a coma, and the fact that the man's brother is an aide to a local politician, one given to loud criticism of the police, makes matters even more 'delicate.'

The expectations of a lunar eclipse seems to heighten the already intense atmosphere, and on the night of the highly anticipated event Pam Murphy, a new member of the detective squad, stands "transfixed. All human activity except the need to congregate and worship was suspended for an hour or so ... The red moon mellowed them. They swayed to inner choruses and seemed inclined to kiss and hug each other."

Inspector Hal Challis of the Australian Victoria Police has become 'involved' with Sergeant Ellen Destry, a member of his squad, the Crime Investigation Unit. Though their relationship is only of 3 weeks duration, things have already been getting 'sticky,' on both personal and professional levels. All of these disparate themes are played out with subtlety and precision.

This is the fifth in the Inspector Challis series, set in the Melbourne area. On its most basic level, it is a police procedural, done as well as anything in the genre, but it is more than that, with wonderful characters and sense of place. It is thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended.

Buried Strangers

Leighton Gage

Soho Press

853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003

9781569476147, $13.00,

Chief Inspector Mario Silva is Brazil's top cop, working out of the capital city, Brasilia. His new case arises out of the discovery, deep in the recesses of a rain forest, of what appears to be a clandestine cemetery, a spot where 37 bodies have been discovered, 24 of them children, as young as six, having been buried years ago, many of them in family groupings. The investigation uncovers an almost unbelievable history to the killings, and uncertainty as to whether or not they have stopped or merely that the bodies have been buried elsewhere.

For at least the early parts of the book, most chapters have a shifting pov from one to another of the police team working varying aspects of the investigation, which at first was unsettling but moves the plot along quickly and of course all coming together very neatly. The suspense builds steadily, and although much of the writing is wryly humorous, an ever more chilling scenario unfolds, one that has the ring of a frightening reality.

The author's secondary characters, the Federal cops working under Silva, are very strong and likeable, from Silva's nephew, Hector Costa; Arnaldo Nunes, on temporary assignment in Brasilia; Danusa Marcus, "the only child of a Rabbi who'd spent all of her teenage vacations working on a kibbutz" in Israel; Rosa Amorim, mother of three with black belts in three martial arts and a degree in criminal justice; and Geraldo Goncalves, nicknamed Babyface. There are many others equally as well-drawn, including Gilda Caropreso, Sao Paolo's chief medical examiner; who finds a mutual attraction with Hector. There is a real sense of place of the Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo and Brasilia, their people and politics, the rampant nepotism and corruption [referred to as "justice through enrichment"] and their allegiances to sports teams.

Silva in particular is a wonderful protagonist, honest and dedicated, and not without personal demons: his wife has a 'drinking problem,' mostly stemming from the death of their only child from leukemia at age eight years of age. The book kept me turning pages and losing complete track of time, and the pace, rapid throughout, picks up even more as the end of the book nears. Silva has been called South America's Kurt Wallander, and I can't disagree with that assessment. Happily, next up for this reader is the author's new novel, also featuring Mario Silva, just out in hardcover from Soho Press and entitled "Dying Gasp." I can't wait! Highly recommended.

Dying Gasp

Leighton Gage

Soho Press

853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003

9781569476130, $24.00,

When the fifteen-year-old granddaughter of one of the most important and influential men in Recife, and indeed in all of Brazil, goes missing, the case lands on the desk of Chief Inspector Mario Silva, who makes his third appearance in this latest in the series. [The politician's office is described as "decorated partly in nineteenth-century French colonial and partly in twenty-first-century Brazilian egomaniac."] As the Brazilian Federal Police is apparently "a smaller organization than the police departments of many major cities," Silva is forced to call upon the local police. This would seem to be a good thing, until one realizes how thoroughly corrupt are those so-called officers of the law.

The early action in the book takes place in Amsterdam, before settling in Brasilia, the Brazilian capital, and Manaus, deep in Amazon country. The description of the latter city in these pages will not raise...

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