Saturday, December 20, 2014

December Heat: Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza



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. 

Other resources:
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Publisher:  Henry Holt and Company, 2003 (orig. pub. as Achados e perdidos, 1998)
Length:      273 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:        Inspector Espinosa #2
Setting:       Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Genre:        Police Procedural
Translated:  From the Portuguese by Benjamin Moser
Source:       I purchased my copy.

28 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good read... I mean it includes not just the who dunnit part...Would love to read Espinosa series...going to add it in good reads...

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    1. You are right, Shalet Jimmy. The novel does go beyond the whodunnit and that is what makes it special to me.

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  2. I have never read a book set in Brazil. Thanks for this fine review, Tracy. Hope I get a copy of this (or any from the series).

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    1. Neer, I have read two by this author and one by Leighton Gage, who is not from Brazil but his wife is. Both series are good, but the series by Gage is darker and more violent and gritty.

      This one could definitely be read as a standalone and I suspect that would work as well for the rest of the series.

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  3. I wish I didn't have so many books waiting to be read: this sounds very intriguing, and I don't think I've read any Brazilian crime fiction. I will put it on the list for the future....

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    1. I know exactly what you mean, Moira. I continue to see authors and books I want add and it is silly to get them when I have so many here.

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  4. Tracy - I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I thought too that it was a very solid character study. And I do like the way the author explores the way that the lives of the different people involved in the story intersect. It's well-done without being contrived, if I can put it that way.

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    1. You put it very well, Margot. I am sure that your blog was where I first saw mention of this series, and I am so glad. I will be reading them all.

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  5. So glad to hear you liked this one, Tracy: I read the first one a year ago and keep meaning to read further. A year ago we were in the throes of winter so I was reading more than I am now: it's a tradeoff I'm happy to make.

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    1. I am really liking this series, Rebecca. I know I have at least more but I do want to read them in order. Although it seems it does not matter.

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  6. I've read this and a few others and like the series. Very much a philosopher-sleuth. One gets inside his head a lot and into his reflections on the case and on life, in general.

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    1. That is a good description, Kathy. I like the philosophying. I did not mention his love of books in this review, but that is another point in his favor.

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  7. Oh, so glad you enjoyed this Tracy. I plan to read this author one day. OK, I'm starting to sound like a broken record here....... I actually have this along with three other titles. Priorities. I wish I didn't own so many books. Quite honestly, I'm sure I've forgotten the books I just "couldn't wait to read" /sarcasm

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    1. I do the same thing, Keishon. I have so many unread authors and they keep slipping back in priority. In a way, it is a good thing; it means there are lots of good authors writing.

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  8. TracyK: Sounds very interesting.

    The quote made me sad. Blue Christmas is too mild a term for Espinosa.

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    1. The book is interesting and the characters are too. The quote is sad. We do not do a lot for Christmas but we love Christmas movies and have a good time together.

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  9. I like that cover, Tracy. Never heard of the author before but this sounds like an interesting read.

    Want to wish you and your family a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, kiddo.

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    1. This was definitely an interesting and different read, Yvette. Merry Christmas to you too. I hope your holidays are fun and productive.

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  10. Tracy, more than the plot it's Inspector Espinosa's character that's drawing me to this series.

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    1. Prashant, Espinosa is a very interesting character. I like both the picture of Brazilian culture and the characters in the book, especially Espinosa.

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  11. Wish you and your family a happy holiday and new year.

    I don't do much either, but I do go to a friend's house. She does Christmas Eve dinner like a pro, and we trim the tree and eat and chat. The next day I watch TV, movies and read.

    I do get gifts for neighbors, friends and the children I know well. I told the two little ones next door that the reindeer hadn't come yet, but when they do, the presents will be here. The older one, now 8 1/2, wrote in her letter to Santa that she would like to meet him! So cute.

    I do miss the crazy holidays of my youth in a multi-cultural household with Christmas and Chanukkah, and all of the food entailed and the singing. We sang every Christmas and Chanukkah song we could find and my mother, who could sight-read every piano piece would accompany us and sing, too.

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    1. Kathy, That sounds like a very nice Christmas Eve and Christmas. Best wishes for the holidays and the New Year. My father was a New Year's baby, so the day was always special to me. We have black eyed peas for luck and watch more movies.

      A multi-cultural Christmas celebrating different beliefs sounds wonderful to me.

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  12. Just a clarification: No one in my immediate family was religious, but the cultural and familial traditions were strong so we did everything my parents' families did. We had a tree and a menorah, presents galore for my sister and me -- and lots of food for each holiday. And, of course, the music. We sang and we also listened to Handel's Messiah over and over again. I still remember much of the words and melodies and harmonies.

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    1. Kathy, when I was a child I grew up in a very religious family. Now, I am not very religious but I retain the love of carols and would even enjoy religious services, but we don't go route. Somehow I feel all the holidays around this time are meaningful no matter what background one is from.

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  13. I think I probably have this - as yet unlogged and unlocated. I think I bought the series in a mad moment. Mad as in ------- why do I need more books, a common theme I think!

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    1. Col, I have enjoyed the two books in this series I have read so far. Not too gritty but definitely full of bad guys. And interesting characters.

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