Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Review of The Silence of the Rain by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, translated by Benjamin Moser (Picador, 2002)

Ricardo Carvalho finishes work in the plush offices of a mining company in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, says goodbye to some of the staff, takes the elevator down to the underground car park, gets in his car, smokes a cigarette and then blows his brains out with a handgun. Only when the police turn up there is no gun and his possessions have been stolen. Inspector Espinosa, an honest cop in a police force that is often corrupt and with a keen interest in philosophy and literature, is assigned to the murder case. At first he makes little progress until the gun turns up on the black market, Carvalho’s secretary disappears mysteriously and it’s revealed that Carvalho had taken out a massive life insurance policy. For a while it seems as if the case is starting to make sense, but then it twists and turns in unexpected ways leaving Espinosa scrambling in the dark, unsure who to trust.

I enjoyed The Silence of the Rain; it’s a solid and intriguing police procedural. Espinosa is a thoughtful, world weary character who reminded me somewhat of Morse. The pace is well judged, the characterisation sound, there is a strong sense of place as the characters move around Rio, and the story has some nice twists. Split into three parts, the first and third parts are written in the third person, the middle part in the first person, putting the reader in the mind of Espinosa. It was a little jarring to swap from one perspective to another, but it actually works well. My only real issue relates to the start and particularly the end which kind of fell apart and was poorly resolved. In short, I was left with very big questions unanswered, which was pretty frustrating given that for the most part this is solid storytelling (and I imagine this will cheese some people off a lot more than it did me). I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll leave it that. On balance, an enjoyable story, the first is a series of seven Espinosa novels, and I plan to read the next in the series, December Heat, which hopefully has a more convincing ending.


seana graham said...

I've read several of this series and I really enjoy them for the characterization and atmosphere. I don't think the mystery element tends to be their strongest point, though.

Anonymous said...

Rob - Thanks for this thorough and interesting review. I have to admit to being one of those people who like the questions in a story answered. Other than that, though, this sounds like a fascinating read, and I'm going to look for it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Isn't it great that we get to tour the world through detective fiction?

Kiwicraig said...

Sounds interesting. I've been looking for some South American crime (having read European, Asian, Australasian, and North American recently)

Rob Kitchin said...

I think it's interesting to see how crime fiction is approached in different places, whilst also finding out about those places. Whislt the themes might be similar, how they are approached can be different.

Marcio Gama said...

Hi, I'm brazilian.

Here, that's a old complaint about the books of Garcia-Roza: their poor ends.

Crime fiction is not a tradition in brazilian literature, so there's not much option beyond Garcia-Roza.