Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Silence of the Rain: An Inspector Espinosa MysteryThe Silence of the Rain: An Inspector Espinosa Mystery by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had high hopes for Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza's "The Silence of the Rain", the first book in a crime trilogy by a Brazilian author, a "distinguished academic", and "a critically acclaimed bestselling novelist". Alas, it is a rather standard crime novel, a cross between police procedural and psychological mystery. Contrary to the hype on the back cover that screams "[it] is the kind of mystery that lingers in the mind long after you've finished reading", the novel is completely unremarkable, outstanding in its averageness. Except for one thing... But let's save the best for the conclusion of this review.

An executive director in a large company is found dead in a car in a parking garage. Inspector Espinosa is heading the investigation. The plot becomes more and more complicated and other people die as well. In an effort to make the central character interesting, the author gives him a strange trait - the good inspector collects books and keeps them in tall piles in his otherwise empty apartment. Unfortunately, this does not make Espinosa any more interesting, and his characterization feels paper-thin. Other characters are portrayed a bit better, and some, like Alba, actually feel real.

One of the major disappointments is that the author has not been able to convey the feel of the location. The events happen in Rio de Janeiro, yet they could as well occur in Lisbon, or in Paris. The author is generous with the names of streets or places: Ipanema, Copacabana, etc. are mentioned on almost every page, but these are just words. They do not convey any sense of the place. I cannot find any Brazilianness in the novel. Certain naïveté in showing police work and affairs of the heart has not bothered me that much. On the other hand, the premise is intriguing, and the plot rather interesting, even though I was sure of the identity of the perpetrator when I was about 70% into the novel.

However, nothing could prepare me for the ending. It is so unexpected and funny that I could not believe that I was still reading the same book. The penultimate scene is so hysterically hilarious, and its tone is so different from the stolid tone of the rest of the book that it is well worth to suffer through this mediocre, two-star novel. I think I will read another book by Mr. Garcia-Roza just to see whether he manages to pull a similar stunt.

Three stars.

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