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December Heart (1998)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312423438, Paperback)There are few crime story recipes more overdone than that involving a suspect who, for some reason, can't recall whether he or she committed murder. Yet Brazilian author Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza brings considerable spice to this device in December Heat, his second novel featuring the bookish and independent Inspector Espinosa.
Leaving a Rio de Janeiro restaurant one evening, retired cop Vieira Crisóstomo, too drunk to stay on his feet, is helped into his car by his prostitute girlfriend, Magali. In the process, he drops his wallet, which is promptly snatched up by a homeless boy. The next morning, Magali is found dead in her Copacabana apartment, naked, with a plastic bag over her head, and lashed to her bed by Vieira's belt. With liquor obscuring Vieira's memory of the previous night, yet every clue suggesting that he asphyxiated his lover, Espinosa tells the ex-officer, "the only reason I'm not arresting you is because I don't think you're stupid enough to accumulate so much evidence against yourself." But who else might have murdered Magali? And is there a link between that crime and subsequent homicides related to Vieira's missing wallet? Answering those questions will send Espinosa after drug traffickers and corrupt cops, lead to assaults on both him and Vieira, and leave the inspector vulnerable to seduction by Vieira's new mistress, Flor--a woman who boasts as many secrets as she does curves.
The leisurely pace of Garcia-Roza's tale reflects that of its sultry coastal setting. His characters vary between the hedonistic and the indigent, but are drawn with unfailing sympathy. Particularly captivating are this novelist's portrayals of women; in one instance, Espinosa tells a young painter here that "you have a navel that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that God exists and that he's a sculptor." Like The Silence of the Rain, Garcia-Roza's first installment of his Espinosa trilogy, December Heat is a coolly delivered blend of the ominous and the sensual, hinting at what Oscar Hijuelos or Gabriel García Márquez might accomplish, were they ever to try penning detective fiction. --J. Kingston Pierce
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:23 -0400)
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