From the Murder By The Book newsletter, November 5, 2010:
One of Michelle’s favorite books of the year just came out in paperback. We asked her to let us know what so captivated her about it, and why it’s still in her “top ten” even after almost twelve months, “In January the book Dying Gasp (by Leighton Gage; Soho Crime; $14) came out in hardback and I already knew it would be one of my favorites of the year. Now, eleven months later, it’s available in paperback and is still in my top ten. Set against the backdrop of Northern Brazil , in one of the country’s most corrupt states, this dark story is one powerful punch in the gut. When the only daughter of an important politician goes missing with her best friend, it is a major catastrophe but one that cannot be made public. Chief Inspector Silva is forced to follow a trail of evil into Manaus to track her down. He is caught between exposing a truth that could damage a nation and rescuing one teenage girl. This novel is a beautiful juxtaposition of Brazil ’s natural beauty and its corruption.”
My review of DYING GASP was written last December. The book was a Christmas present I had requested. It is a very good present because it is a very good book.
AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
“The bomb aboard the number nine tram claimed seventeen lives. Sixteen were passengers. The seventeenth was the driver of a nearby postal truck. Mail from his shattered vehicle littered the cobblestones in from of the Museum of the Tropics and fluttered, like tiny flags, from the branches of the linden trees.”
Mail that has been damaged is examined and discovered to contain a bomb of another sort. A postal inspector views a DVD hoping to get some information about the sender and the recipient so the mail can be delivered as promised. But the DVD is the stuff of nightmares not just for the unwitting postal inspector but for the police who have to do something about it. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the horror is real. It is a snuff film and the producers provide enough evidence to prove that such films are not an urban legend. There is a victim and there is enough on the film to prove that she died in Brazil.
As he did in his previous books, Leighton Gage grabs readers with an immediacy that propels them into the story and compels them to keep turning the pages.
Chief Inspector Mario Silva of the Brazil Federal Police is ordered to meet with Roberto Malan, a member of the Chamber of Deputies and one of the wealthiest men in the country. Malan’s granddaughter is missing and he wants the federal police to investigate. Marta is 15 and has been missing for two months. She is an embarrassment to the family and her grandfather would prefer she not be found. Silva is astonished; a rich and politically powerful man has not used his influence to send the police storming through the country. Instead he has ignored her danger for the sake of the family name. But Mario Silva and his team, Hector Costa and Arnaldo Nunes, are determined to find and rescue this girl when they discover that she is in Manaus, a city whose corrupt leaders are notorious throughout the country.
Leighton Gage creates nuanced and believable characters and settings that pull the reader into the page. It is storytelling at its best and the reader is engaged throughout the telling of this story because of the truth at its core. It is always the poor, the young, and the innocent that pay the price when people sell their souls. The search for Marta Malan is a search to find and stop the completely corrupted individuals who make money corrupting children, making prostitutes of girls young enough to play with dolls. And it is the story of Silva’s search to find the woman who kills because she finds power in hearing the dying gasp of her victims.
Brazil is the location of this book. The depraved behavior written for the characters in the book are evidenced in real life in every part of the world. Leighton Gage writes entertaining books about hard truths and it is the hard truths that set his books apart. The dying gasp one hears may well be that of a society that values pleasure at any cost above the value of life.
DYING GASP, like BLOOD OF THE WICKED and BURIED STRANGERS, proveS that Gage’s talent is real and that his stories and the moral issues they address are universal.