“Yes, A Vine in the Blood is about a football star, but more importantly it is about murder and a kidnapping. If that doesn’t grab the reader right away, perhaps the fact that this, the latest in Leighton Gage’s Brazilian bombshells, is about something more. It is about good writing of a mystery novel. To be more precise, it is about how the Federal police in Brazil go about solving crimes.
“This is a police procedural of the first order. Perhaps the secret lies in Gage’s ability to write dialogue that would serve well in any novel, not just a mystery or crime novel. It is not banter, it is well-written dialogue between the police and the suspects that makes the pages fly by. Sometimes the lack of dialogue is also a special treat as people bite their tongue to keep from letting their true thoughts out in the conversation in which they are engaged.
“Gage’s latest book also demonstrates police teamwork on the highest level. While the team is under the leadership of Chief Inspector Mario Silva, all the characters add something special to the investigation and they all share the information they have collected. This “whodunnit” thankfully doesn’t reveal itself until the end and the reader sits there smiling and saying to himself “what will the next book be about?”. But don’t worry. If this, the fourth in Gage’s series convinces of anything, it is that the next book (hopefully there will be a next book) will be as good as the first four.
“A side benefit to the reader is Gage’s ability to weave in information about Brazil that only the long-time Brazilian resident or aficionado would know about. In many ways you might also use it as a Rough Guide to things Brazilian.
“If you’ve not read Gage’s books, you’re in for a treat. They are different if you don’t know about Brazil, and they are different from a slew of other mystery books because they are so well written.”
All that having been said, let me add that I’m a long-time traveller to Brazil and married to a Brazilian. We just got back from our second trip to Sao Paulo in the past six months and it is all fresh in my mind.
What the beginning of the book does for me (I just went back and reread the first chapter) is how Brazilian it and the author are. If you’ve had friends or relatives who have been kidnapped in Brazil the story instantly strikes home. If you’ve ever been to Brazil, the story strikes home. If you feel even the slightest bit Brazilian, the story strikes home.
Maybe the word “strikes” in writing about soccer (football to a Brazilian) is a misplaced sports term, but you must understand the fire that races through Brazilians where the sport is concerned to begin to understand why this is a powerful novel.
Interestingly it has not been translated into Portuguese and I don’t know if any of Leighton Gage’s works have been translated into Portuguese. But for those who read English, this novel (and Leighton’s other works) supplants the need to read Portuguese.
Just settle down with a good samba recording and a caipirinha (that wonderful Brazilian elixir) and you’ll start to absorb the strength of the words as they sing of Brazil.
Did I mention that I like this book?