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A VINE IN THE BLOOD


By Leighton Gage

Soho Crime, 2011 ($24.00)

ISBN-13: 978-1-61695-004-0
Kindle eBook: $9.99

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Brazilians love their futebol, and the whole country is excited about the upcoming FIFA World Cup. This is a major international event, and for the first time in decades, Brazil is the host country. When the mother of the star player, Tico Santos, known as The Artist, is kidnapped, Federal Police Detective Mario Silva is told in no uncertain terms that he must find and return Juraci Santos safely ASAP.

Theories abound on the identity of the nefarious kidnappers. Some claim it's a plot by Brazil's arch-enemies, the Argentinians, who are hoping The Artist will be so distraught that he'll flub his performance, or not show up at all. The idea that the Argentinians may rub the Brazilian team's face in the dirt — and Brazilian dirt at that — is an insult too great to bear. Some suggest Tico's gold-digging girlfriend, top model Cintia Tadesco, might have a motive, or that his rival on the team wants his turn to shine, or a player whose career was ruined when Tico's badly-placed kick shattered his shin might be seeking revenge. Lots of theories, no concrete evidence, and the clock is ticking.

The crime took place in Sao Paulo, and the investigation is being directed by Delgado Hector Costa, Silva's nephew. Some claim Hector rose through the ranks so quickly because of his uncle's influence, while the opposite is true. Silva tried to steer Hector into a less dangerous line of work, and the result was that Hector worked harder and became a better detective. He and his team have things well in hand when Silva and his men arrive, and have already developed a good idea of how the kidnapping and the murder of Juraci's employees was carried out. In a country that is rife with corruption and ineptitude in high places, it is refreshing to see such excellent and intelligent work by the personnel working under Silva and Costa.

The kidnappers pick an unusual choice of ransom delivery, but the police are able to deal with it efficiently and ingeniously. Silva seeks advice from some interesting sources, including a former criminology professor who decided to supplement his income by becoming an expert kidnapper. He was not expert enough to avoid being caught. His advice is of far more value than the police profiler, hand-picked by Silva's boss, Federal Police Director Nelson Sampaio.

When the resourceful and hard-working detectives solve the crime, it is Sampaio who, as usual, takes credit. Silva doesn't care. He's used to that, and the important thing, in the end, is that the crime is solved and justice prevails.

This is the fifth book in the Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation series. Gage is able to show the reader the beauty of his adopted country, and the integrity that can be found even in a system that is far from ideal. His characters are real, with faults and burdens, and we see them grow and develop with each new story. This is an excellent series, and it gets better with every book.

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