THE WAYS OF EVIL MEN
The Mario Silva Investigation series (Book #7)
By Leighton Gage
Soho, January 2014 ($26.95)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
After a hazardous trip into the rainforest in Para, northwest Brazil, Jade Calmon is confronted by an Indian man aiming a poisoned arrow at her, a small boy by his side. They are members of the Awana tribe, and she is the government official assigned to their reservation. She knows the two: Amati and his eight-year-old son Raoni. After she convinces Amati to put down his weapon, he tells her a shocking story. The two had returned to their village after a hunting trip to find everyone in their village dead — thirty-nine people. Amati and Raoni are the last of their tribe. Amati says they were murdered by white men who want their land.
Jade takes Amati to Azevedo to report the crime, but finds little interest or sympathy from the officials there. The locals, for the most part, are bigots who despise the Indians and consider their existence on a federally protected reservation an impediment to progress.
Jade is stunned, but not surprised, by their indifference, and by the open hostility to Amati. She contacts the Brazilian Federal Police and calls her best friend, a journalist for a major newspaper asking for help in investigating the crime and exposing the appalling state of affairs in the area. They come to the remote, treacherous region as quickly as they can, but too late to prevent further tragedy.
Chief Inspector Mario Silva leads the police investigation. He and his team are rarities among government employees: incorruptible and principled, seeking justice for the victims of crime and punishment for the evil-doers, no matter who they are. It is a thankless, often dangerous, job they do, but still they carry on. Silva tells one victim that "money buys justice on this part of the world," but he finds a way to help her even so.
Brazil is a huge, beautiful, resource-rich country whose citizens represent the best and worst of mankind. The author shows his love of this fascinating place and the diverse populace, but pulls no punches about the greed, brutality, racism, and corruption that exist. His writing about the land and its people is lyrical and heart-wrenching, but there is hope at the end.
Leighton Gage died in 2013, and a great literary voice has been stilled. His books are masterpieces, telling a story that has not been heard before in such vivid prose. Anyone who has an interest in Brazil, in finely-written mysteries, in human nature, should read this and the other six books in the Mario Silva Investigation series.
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