DYING GASP by Leighton Gage

Book Quote:

“They say they come here to see the river and the jungle,” the priest went on. “Sometimes it’s true. Mostly, it’s just sex tourism, pure and simple.”

Book Review:

Review by Guy Savage (FEB 13, 2010)

The whispers and rumors of the existence of snuff films first appeared in western culture some decades ago. Since then, it’s been said that snuff films–real snuff films don’t exist–that they’re nothing more than urban myths. Common sense tells me that if a lucrative trade thrives in the international black market trafficking of human organs, then real snuff films must exist. And if there’s a market for snuff films, then what better place to make them than in a country in which the poor can disappear without a trace.

Author Leighton Gage’s third Chief Inspector Mario Silva mystery Dying Gasp centres on a Brazilian snuff film ring. I’ve read all three of Gage’s novels and while they tackled different social problems in Brazil, Dying Gasp is the darkest, grimmest to date. Given the subject matter, that shouldn’t be too surprising. If you haven’t tried the Mario Silva novels yet, and if you enjoy series detective novels with an international, social/political theme, then give Leighton Gage a try. His novels are a cut above most of the detective novels on the market.

Dying Gasp begins with the disappearance of two young girls. Women go missing every day in Brazil, but the difference this time is that one of the girls is Marta, the 15-year–old granddaughter of one of the country’s most powerful politicians. While the poor vanish silently into Brazil’s vast networks of crime, that doesn’t happen with Marta. Marta’s unpleasant grandfather, Deputado Roberto Malan, pulls strings until he gets Chief Inspector Mario Silva on the case. Malan considers Marta a “disrespectful little bitch,” but he’s under pressure from his son and daughter-in-law to find the girl. Marta was last seen with her 18-year-old girlfriend Andrea, and by the time Mario Silva is roped into the case, the girls have been missing for weeks, and the trail is now stone-cold.

Meanwhile in Amsterdam, a series of events leads to a break in the case of an international snuff film ring. As the search for the major players in the films that cater to the sick tastes of the wealthy widens to Brazil, Mario Silva realizes that his search for Marta is also connected to his search for the snuff film ring. Silva has reason to believe that Marta is being held captive in a bordello which specializes in underage girls, and in a race against time, Silva and trusted detectives Arnaldo and Hector Costa travel to Manaus, a hellhole in the heart of Amazonia. In Manaus, Silva must battle against corruption and also against his old enemy, the quintessentially evil Claudia Andrade (Buried Strangers).

Mario Silva, as an incorruptible police inspector must deal with all sorts of people–including his bosses and the “superiors” who turn his stomach. Silva negotiates a corrupt, sick world, a world that he cannot ultimately change but one in which he simply does the best he can.

In Dying Gasp Gage once again delivers a terrific mystery coupled with a tale that explores the many social problems of Brazil–a country plagued with crime and corruption, and with a vast divide between the poor and the wealthy. I first came across Gage through his second novel, Buried Strangers, a story in which Gage describes the social inequities of Brazil through a crime story involving organ trafficking. While many Brazilian crime films explore the life of Brazil’s poverty-wracked ghettos, Gage’s tales argue that the poor are often the tools of the rich–either through criminal enterprises, or simply as human husks to be utilized and harvested as unwilling donors for the wealthy. But Gage also shows the inescapable connections between the worst, most evil aspects of human exploitation and those wealthy enough to indulge in the results as recreational distractions–even as they kid themselves that their hands are clean. In Dying Gasp, Gage once again creates an edge-of-the-seat read, and through this dark tale, he reveals the intricate web between the rich and poor, the exploiters and the exploited and those who try to carve a niche for themselves in between these upper and lower echelons of Brazilian society.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-5-0from 21 readers
PUBLISHER: Soho Crime (January 1, 2010)
REVIEWER: Guy Savage
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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February 13, 2010 · Judi Clark · Comments Closed
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Brazil, Class - Race - Gender, Sleuths Series, World Lit