Summary at Fantastic Fiction:
A sultry December night in Rio de Janeiro. A retired policeman spends a typically alcohol-filled evening with his girlfriend, a prostitute. When he wakes up the next morning, his wallet and car key are missing, his girlfriend has been murdered, and he can remember none of the events of the previous night. Called in to investigate is Inspector Espinosa, veteran detective and friend of the ex-cop. It's a seemingly open-and-shut case, but Espinosa is convinced there's more here than meets the eye, and when other bodies begin turning up, he finds himself not only racing a killer but falling in love.December Heat is the second novel in the Inspector Espinosa series. The story is told from various points of view: Espinosa; Vieiro, the suspect; Flor, friend of the victim; and a young homeless boy. The deaths in this book are of marginalized members of society. No one (except Espinosa and Vieiro) really cares if the crimes are solved. Vieiro wants to clear his name. He also was a very close friend of the prostitute. He is retired, but he feels that once a policeman .... always a policeman.
Espinosa is not portrayed as a hero; he is an ethical policeman, which appears to be unusual in the Brazilian police. Espinosa often operates alone, and he has no partner. He can draw upon other policemen within his precinct, but he must choose carefully to find one he trusts.
Quote from author's description of the character:
Espinosa is a common man. He is not a hero, he is not always fighting against dangerous criminals, and he does not get all the beautiful blondes and brunettes that cross his path. He is a public employee, a middle-aged person, and a solitary man. He could be our neighbor. However, at the same time, he has a critical mind and a romantic heart; he feels he is an eccentric in the police world and out of place in general. He is a contradictory common man, if this makes sense. Above all, Espinosa is an ethical man. Two decades before the birth of the character Inspector Espinosa, Brazil was still under a military regime, which had ruled for a very long time, and the police were conceived as a repressive force and not as an investigative apparatus. Besides, several divisions were corrupt. Therefore, the image of Brazilian police at that time was not good, and that bad impression has persisted until the present time. Nowadays, after more than two decades of full democracy, we still have a police force contaminated by the past. With Inspector Espinosa, I intended to create a character that provided the image of an ethical policeman, not as a utopian ideal but as a real possibility.
Although the novel is set in December, there are only a few references to preparations for Christmas, the crowds, the shopping. Espinosa is not much interested in Christmas.
He remembered more clearly the Christmases he had spent with his grandmother, in the years they'd lived together. She'd made an effort so the day wouldn't be sad. After her death, except for the few years of his marriage, he had never again celebrated Christmas. He lacked the faith, and the people.Overall, I would say that this is a very different crime fiction novel. It is the exploration of the characters that makes it a compelling read. It is dark but not depressing.
- Reviewed by J. Kingston Pierce at January Magazine.
- Reviewed by Maxine at Petrona.
- I reviewed the first book in the series, The Silence of the Rain. My review is here.
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, 2003 (orig. pub. as Achados e perdidos, 1998)
Length: 273 pages
Series: Inspector Espinosa #2
Setting: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Genre: Police Procedural
Translated: From the Portuguese by Benjamin Moser
Source: I purchased my copy.