Friday, May 18, 2012

Review of Buried Strangers by Leighton Gage (Soho Crime, 2009)

In a remnant of rain forest on the outskirts of Sao Paulo a clandestine cemetery is discovered.  Despite his boss being more interested in the investigation of a political rival, Chief Inspector Mario Silva of the Federal Police travels from Brasilia to investigate further.  The bodies have not been long buried and are interred in family groups. Silva enlists the help of local cop, Delegado Yoshiro Tanaka.  Tanaka soon discovers the recent disappearance of a local family.  Following their trail leads to Tanaka straight to the source of the bodies and his own death.  Silva and his team struggle to pick up the trail once again, but when they do it uncovers a dark secret and other cemeteries.

Buried Strangers is an engaging read.  Gage writes in an assured, economical style heavy on dialogue and action.  The political, social and economic relations of modern Brazil are laid bare without overly dominating the text; there’s plenty of context without it being a geography/history lesson.  The characterization is good, with Gage able to quickly sketch a portrait that appears in the reader’s mind’s eye.  The storyline for Buried Strangers is contemporary and interesting, if more than a little unsettling.  The pages just fly past.  That said, the book suffers from too many awkward plot devices.  For example, moving a pair of witnesses hundreds of miles away to where they were uncontactable, a mother living next door to her son, Silva’s cleaner’s son using an underground emigration network in a city hundreds of miles away.  There’s coincidence and then there’s plot device coincidence.  There’s 200 million people in Brazil and it’s a massive country, the chances of Silva’s cleaner’s son having anything to do with the case must be astronomical.  I don’t mind having to suspend disbelief every now and then, but I like it to be near-credible disbelief.  Moreover, the ending unfolded in a very quick, straightforward fashion, with no twists or turns, though there was some tension.  Overall, an enjoyable read, which could have been great if it hadn’t been reliant on obvious plot devices.  The next book in the series is Dying Gasp and it's on my to read list.

1 comment:

Robyn said...

Thanks for the review. I really enjoy books like this. I am reading a book called, "Angels Gate" by Andrew J. Rafkin and Louis Pagano. It is a true crime story based in Los Angeles in 1983 about the largest monetary drug heist in history. I love that it is a true story. The book is full of suspense and mystery.