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Thursday 5 April 2018

‘Gringa’ by Joe Thomas

Published byArcadia Books Limited,
15 February 2018.
ISBN: 979-1-911350-24-8 (HB)

Set in São Paulo during its re-development in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup, this is a pacy read portraying vividly the dynamism and dysfunction, seediness and sensuality, corruption and vibrancy of the world’s twelfth largest city.

The author lived and worked here for ten years so knows it inside out.  Once again we meet Mario Leme, a detective, although not exactly a high- flyer, in the city police who featured in the author’s gritty debut Paradise City.

Leme befriends Ellie, a young journalist from Poole subbing on the cultural events pages of a local English language newspaper. Ellie has stumbled across a source with amazing information that she believes will propel her into the upper echelons of serious investigative journalism. Leme accompanies her to the rendezvous building but remains outside when she enters. When she fails to emerge, he heads indoors only to be confronted by her mobile phone, the corpse of a man he doesn’t recognise and her worrying disappearance.

During the five days that Ellie is missing, the plot swings like a pendulum between her viewpoint and Leme’s, and back and forth in time. The author has achieved this so skillfully that it isn’t muddling or grating.  There is a glossary at the end and although some Portuguese words in the text are untranslated, this doesn’t interfere with the rhythm or understanding of the story that is simply nossa – wow!

The structure is tight and sharp, the dialogue and interaction between the characters snappy and, at times, humorous. I can see it as perfect film noir/ TV material and if you fancy a walk on the dark, wild side, you couldn’t choose a more exciting fellow traveller.
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax

Joe Thomas is a visiting lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. Prior to this, he lived and taught in São Paulo for ten years. Gringa is the second book to feature detective Mario Leme. The first, Paradise City, was published by Arcadia in 2017.

Serena Fairfax spent her childhood in India, qualified as a lawyer in England and practised in London for many years. She began writing by contributing feature articles to legal periodicals   then turned her hand to fiction. Having published nine novels all, bar one, hardwired with a romantic theme, she has also written short stories and accounts of her explorations off the beaten track that feature on her blog. A tenth, distinctly unromantic, novel is a work in progress. Thrillers, crime and mystery narratives, collecting old masks and singing are a few of her favourite things.

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