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Book Review: Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage

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In three weeks, I'll have the chance to meet Leighton Gage, a man who sounds as fascinating as the lead character in his debut mystery, Blood of the Wicked. The book has already received rave reviews, but it doesn't hurt to add my praise. It's a brutal, graphic story at times, but Gage's notes at the end show he knows the Brazilian world he portrays.

Blood of the Wicked introduces Mario Silva, Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters in the Brazilian Federal Police. He's a well-educated man, with a law degree and training with the FBI. And, he's a complicated character. It's well known in the country that Brazilian justice is subject to bribes, money and power. When Silva's father his brother-in-law were killed in the early years of Mario's career, he took matters into his own hands. Silva understands that sometimes "Brazilian justice" isn't actually justice.

Silva's latest case starts out as a problem, and only grows more complicated. Before it's over, it involves landowners and the landless, the state police, the media, street kids, and the Catholic Church. It begins, and ends, with the death of priests.

When a bishop is assassinated, Silva's dislikable political boss sends him to take charge. He arrives to find his case entwined with a recent death of a family in the landless movement. Brazil has a constitutional obligation to confiscate untilled land and give it to the landless. The landowners fight back. The landless occupy land they don't own, and violence results. And, the corrupt police support the landowners in many areas.

As Silva and his small team from the Federal Police investigate, they only face opposition from the state police and the landowners. Before Silva can put together the facts, he finds events escalating out of control, as reporters are murdered, the families occupying land are massacred, and each clue leads to more violence. And, suspicion alone can't solve the case.

Leighton Gage has written a powerful debut mystery. He brings Brazil to life, with the complex politics, and ugliness of the poverty, and, at times, the life. For those who object to the brutality in the book, the author explains that documented deaths are over 1,500 in Brazil's land wars. Gage shows the extremes of poverty and wealth, capturing it vividly in two scenes linked by one character, the mother of a street boy. He tells of the family tragedies in Brazil, and the crime.

And everything is linked together, the lifestyles, the police, the politics, and the Church. Chief Inspector Mario Silva himself, is a complex man, who has witnessed, and lived, the contradictions of Brazilian life and "Brazilian justice."

I'm waiting for the return of Silva in the sequel to Blood of the Wicked. And, I can't wait to meet the man who can bring a character, and a country, so vividly to life.

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About Lesa Holstine