Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review of Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage (Soho Press, 2008)

The Bishop of Presidente Vargas has flown in a corporate helicopter to the city of Cascatas, in the Brazilian interior, in order to open a new church. On landing he is assassinated by sniper fire. It is one of a number of murders that have happened in Cascatas in recent months, mostly the result of a dispute between the peasants of the Landless League and large landowners who dominate the local economy and wield power over the police and judiciary. In addition, street kids are being found dead on a regular basis. The death of bishop, however, brings Cascatas to the attention of government ministers and the federal police. Chief Inspector Mario Silva, a man driven by the need to deliver justice but prepared to twist the law to achieve it, is dispatched to the city. There he is met with resistance by the local state police as he tries to uncover the murderer, but as he picks away at the case, others start to turn up dead, killed by a brutal hand.

Blood of the Wicked is a crime novel meets social commentary, examining the nature of policing, justice, access to land and a livelihoods, street kids, liberation theology, and massive inequalities in wealth and power in Brazil. It would have been easy for Gage to drift into writing little more than a sermon on corruption and the injustices suffered by the peasant class in country, but he manages to keep the story of the investigation centre stage, with the social commentary drifting out through its telling. And it is a powerful tale, well told. The plotting is, for the most part, excellent, though I did feel the plot line with the journalist was closed off when it could have profitably been kept open and the deaths of several people with powerful connections would have meant the city being flooded with dozens of federal cops, not just Silva and two colleagues. But these are minor gripes. The characterization is strong across a range of characters, not just the principles, and Silva is a detective worth spending time with. Where the book excels is in its evocation of place and its social history and commentary. If you like your fiction to inform and educate as well entertain, then Blood of the Wicked is well worth a read.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Two great reviews. I may have to seek this one out. Happy Holidays, Rob. I hope the weather lets up there.

Leighton Gage said...

Thank you, Rob, for taking the time and trouble to review "Blood of the Wicked".
This is the first book in the series, and my North American publisher is offering it, free, on Kindle, during the month of December to promote the latest in the series, "Every Bitter Thing".
(The New York Times just reviewed that one and called it "irresistible".
Their offer, however, only holds in North America.
I think that's unfair to readers in the UK and the Irish Republic. So, to do justice, I'd be happy to send a free copy of BOTW, in either Kindle or Epub, to anyone who writes me via my web site.
The offer holds through the end of this month.
And all I need is an email address and an indication about whether you want it in Kindle or Epub.
Paste this address in your browser to get there:

Cheers All,

Rob Kitchin said...

Leighton - great offer! Hope people come looking for it and on the basis of their reading buy the other books.