BLOOD OF THE WICKED opens with the assassination of a Catholic bishop. Moments after he steps off a helicopter in Cascatas to dedicate a church, Bishop Antunes is killed by a sniper’s shot. His death immediately pits the Landless Workers’ League, the poor, against the land owners, the very rich, who want to it believed that the murder was a plot by the League.
The church in Brazil is divided into those who follow the rules set by the Vatican and those who are still in sympathy with the principles of liberation theology. Gage makes reference to the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was shot while offering Mass in San Salvador. Romero was becoming increasingly supportive of the liberation theology movement, which interprets the teachings of Christ as calling for liberation from economic, political, and social conditions that deprive the poor of basic necessities and human decency. The military in San Salvador took responsibility for the death of Romero but which side, the landless workers or the land owners, had the most to gain by the clergyman’s death. Bishop Antunes, murdered before he stepped into the church building, was an unknown quantity. Did he support the Landless Workers’ League in violation of the directives from Rome or did he support the land owners who controlled the government?
Mario Silva, Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters for the federal police of Brazil, is called upon to bring the matter of the bishop’s murder to a quick and successful close. To the politicians who try to influence Silva, that means finding the killer among the landless workers. But, once in Cascatas, Silva’s case expands to include drug peddling, the emergence of a serial killer, the deaths of those who try to learn the truth, and a population in terror of its police.
There is a great deal of blood in this story and there is a seemingly endless parade of the wicked. There are few heroes either, including Silva, a man with a strong moral code but a code, nonetheless, that recognizes the corrupt and ineffectual justice system in his country. He is a man who has also been motivated by vengeance. There are heroes in unexpected places but even the heroes are bathed in the blood of the wicked.
Leighton Gage has written a story that demands that once started, must be finished without interruption. As flawed as Mario is, he is the image of right against might. When it seems that all the depravity has been revealed, there is still more. The church harbors saints and sinners and sometimes they are the same people. Those sworn to serve and protect the people are the worst perpetrators of violence against the innocent. Gage does what seems impossible and brings the story to an end that is real and just when there isn’t any hope for justice.
BLOOD OF THE WICKED is the first in the Mario Silva series. The reader can only hope that the author has a long and prolific career.