Henry Bates was a very famous mid-19th century English naturalist who spent 11 1/2 years in the Amazon River area, eventually going from the outlet atHenry Bates was a very famous mid-19th century English naturalist who spent 11 1/2 years in the Amazon River area, eventually going from the outlet at the Atlantic at what is now Belem to the border of Brasil with Peru. He collected thousands of specimens of EVERYTHING--birds, mammals, especially insects, many of which were unknown at the time. Many of his specimens now reside in the British Museum.[return][return]In those days, a "naturalist" was no specialist. It is a marvel to me to read today of someone who is knowledgeable not only in all of the above but a massive variety of plants as well. Today, a botanist, for example, would specialize maybe in one family of palms, let's say.[return][return]The book is well written, but the structure is not the easiest to deal with: the paragraphs can be very long. Also, you can get very tired of the verb 'to ramble". [return][return]There is a wealth of information although not too specialized. Bates became famous for many things but not the least his exposition on what are now known as army ants! His descriptions of the insect pests are lively and also deceptive. One fly, called the Pu...more
From 1893 to 1897, the newly-formed (1888) and fragile Brasilian republic waged 4 military campaigns against the millenarian community of Canudos, locFrom 1893 to 1897, the newly-formed (1888) and fragile Brasilian republic waged 4 military campaigns against the millenarian community of Canudos, located in the sert...more
6th in the Inspector Espinosa from Rio de Janeiro series.[return][return]An apparently homeless, one-legged beggar is efficiently (one shot to the hea6th in the Inspector Espinosa from Rio de Janeiro series.[return][return]An apparently homeless, one-legged beggar is efficiently (one shot to the heart) murdered in an affluent neighborhood in Rio s 12th District in Copacabana, home to Chief Inspector Espinosa. The killing makes no sense. It was clearly not drug-related, and it is impossible to see the murder as a self-defense against an obviously harmless beggar. Everything about the case is baffling, including the lack of anyone who knew the victim and the total lack of witnesses, even though two men from a dinner party in a house close to where the crime was committed claim to have seen nothing.[return][return]Thus begins the latest in Garcia-Roza s superb series. The protagonist, Inspector Espinosa, is not your standard hard-boiled detective; unusual for a Brasilian, he is bookish, as well as being somewhat dreamy, eccentric (not unusual in a Brasilian!). The writing and, importantly, the translation are excellent; the plot is taut and unpredictable. The characters are real and their environment--the Copacabana district--is vibrantly alive. I have spent a great deal of time in Brasil but have never visited Rio. Until I started reading this series, I never wanted to, either. But Garcia-Roza paints a picture of a real neighborhood with interesting people not the Copacabana of tourists, but the one of cariocas, as the residents of Rio are known.[return][return]So far, Garcia-Roza does not seem to write to a formula. All of his books have been different. Certainly this book is vastly different from his previous, mind-bending thriller, Pursuit. But, as with all the others, Blackout is a real page-turner, as the tension and surprises mount to an excellent denouement.[return][return]Highly recommended....more
Another bizarre plot in the 5th of the Inspector Espinosa series set in Rio de Janeiro.[return][return]A psychiatrist becomes convinced that he is beiAnother bizarre plot in the 5th of the Inspector Espinosa series set in Rio de Janeiro.[return][return]A psychiatrist becomes convinced that he is being stalked by a patient. Yet, as the plot unfolds, it isn't clear just who is being stalked and exactly what is happening to the psyciatrist and his family. Espisoa eventually becomes involved in the increasingly bizarre story; he is not the major figure in the stroy but more of a bystander, tangential to the main plot line.[return][return]Very impressive writing, making the story believable and keeping the reader completely at sea as to what is really happening....more
The fourth--and in my opinion, the best to date--of the Inspector Espinosa of the Rio de Janeiro police series.[return][return][return][return]A serieThe fourth--and in my opinion, the best to date--of the Inspector Espinosa of the Rio de Janeiro police series.[return][return][return][return]A series of murders occurs that are linked to corruption in the Rio police. But that's about the only thing that is clear throughout most of the book. Espinosa manages to get himself involved one way or another with two women who are closely associated with the murders. The pace is fast, the writing excellent. For much of the book, little more is understood; nothing becomes really clear until the last few pages.[return][return][return][return]An excellent book that utilizes the notorious corruption of the poorly trained, poorly paid Rio police as a background for an exciting, intriguing mystery. Rio--Copacabana. Leme, and Peixote areas--returns as a major supporting member of the cast....more
3rd in the Inspector Espinoza series set in Rio de Janeiro.[return][return][return][return]This is more psychological thriller of a subdued nature tha3rd in the Inspector Espinoza series set in Rio de Janeiro.[return][return][return][return]This is more psychological thriller of a subdued nature than a mystery or a police procedural. Yes, there are murders but that actually is second to the mental deterioration of Gabriel, a 30 year old young man to whom a psychic pedicted, 2 months before his birthday, that Gabriel would kill someone in a nonaccidental way before his birthday. Gabriel's resulting descent into madness is fascinating. [return][return][return][return]Additional spice to the story is provided by subplots involving a romantic interest and a young neighbor who is prodding a reluctant Espinoza into dog ownership. The endingis a very nice twist, although there is one very loose, dangling end that is never satisfactorily tied up.[return][return][return][return]Rio itself is nowhere near the major character in the story as it was in the first two books, but is still there as a backdrop....more
First in a series starring Rio de Janeiro detective, Inspector Espinosa. The plot involves the death of a businessman that appears as a murder due toFirst in a series starring Rio de Janeiro detective, Inspector Espinosa. The plot involves the death of a businessman that appears as a murder due to accidental circumstances of a petty theif in the parking garage where the suicide occurs. The reader never really knows, through the twists of the story, what exactly has happened--murder or suicide--until the end.[return][return][return][return]There appears to be a good evocation of Rio as it's known to cariocas. There is no appeal to superficial, touristy areas like Christo Redentor on Corcovado. Lots of action around the Cocacabana area where Espinosa lives, yet this is the Cocacabana of locals, not tourists.[return][return][return][return]Espinosa is an "oddball" hero--introspective bookish 9which generally speaking is not a Brasilian trait). n As the narrative makes clear, at no time until the end, which has a good twist, does Espinosa ever fantasize what really happened.[return][return][return][return]Good writing. The ending is a little weak--we never understand why Caravalho commits suicide, although in Espinosa's world, that's not really necessary.[return][return][return][return]Highly recommended....more
7th in the Chief Espinosa of the 12th Precinct in Rio de Janeiro series.[return][return][return]7th in the Chief Espinosa of the 12th Precinct in Rio7th in the Chief Espinosa of the 12th Precinct in Rio de Janeiro series.[return][return][return]7th in the Chief Espinosa of the 12th Precinct in Rio de Janeiro series.[return][return]Garcia-Roza doesn t just write outstanding police procedurals--most of his books are great psychological thrillers as well; in fact, I m not aware of any other writer in the genre who combines the two aspects so well and so unusually. This one is no exception. An old woman dies a puzzling death that may or may not be an accident; the chief suspect is somehow vaguely related to other deaths that might or might not have been accidents. All this might or might not be coincidence. And yes, that s the whole tenor of the book as Espinosa and his chief helpers, Inspector Ramiro and Detective Welber dig deeper and deeper into the past of Hugo Breno, a colorless bank teller. Soon, parts of Espinosa s past infringe upon the present and he is hard put to tell if any of it is relevant or if he is fabricating a tale out of whole cloth.[return][return]Add to that a crisis with his lover of 10 years, and you have the usual intriguing, textured mystery that Garcia-Roza writes so well. [return][return]Normally, Rio--specifically the Copacabana and Peixoto districts--contribute quite a bit to the ambience of the novels, but not so much in this book. Although I have visited Brasil many times and have spent a good deal of time there, I have never been to Rio. To compensate for that this time, since so much of the action takes place in the Peixoto district where Espinosa lives, I went to Google maps and followed Espinosa and Breno around; I most likely pinpointed the three-story building where Espinosa lives! That little vicarious jaunt added a good deal to the enjoyment of the read.[return][return]An excellent addition to the series. Highly recommended for those who like their police procedurals off the beaten track....more
Vadinho, that raascally, good-for-nothing, ne’er-do-well gambler and womanizer, drops dead during the middle of Carnaval, leaving his wife Dona Flor aVadinho, that raascally, good-for-nothing, ne’er-do-well gambler and womanizer, drops dead during the middle of Carnaval, leaving his wife Dona Flor a young widow. Whileher neighbors, friends, and especially her poisonous mother, all rejoice--at last Dona Flor is rid of that lowlife husband--Dona Flor herself is unconsolable. Yes, he was all those bad things--but he was also charming, funny and, most important of all, an absolutely fantastic lover. Modest and upright (except in the iron matrimonial bed), Dona Flor simply can not explain to those around her why she continues to mourn.
But sooner or later, all things pass, and Flor does indeed marry again--Dr. Teodoro, who could not be more opposite than the scamp Vadinho. She is happy--but. And out of that but arises a situation that only the powers of magic and love can resolve.
On that thread of a story line, Amado wrote 622 pages of a paean to sensuality, Brasilian style. Flor is a genius at Bahian (Northeast Brasil) cooking , and food is as important in the story as it is in Brasilian life. But the focus of the story is on Flor and her struggle to be “decent” in the battle between spirit and matter, as she puts it--between her sense of what is right and her longing for her sexually athletic dead husband who lit her original fires and who still is the only one who can quench them totally.
The characters are wonderfully drawn; there are any number of the socially respectable as well as rogues, con artists, and neighborhood gossips. The description of Northeast Brasilian life in the Bahian capital of Ilheus in the mid-twentieth century is captivating. The practice of candomblé--a combination of Yaruba (West Africa) religion and Roman Catholicism--is very much alive both today in Brasil and in the book, and there are some lively, dramatic scenes involving Exu, Yamenjá, and other Yaruban deities.
Even by South American literature standards, this book is overly long; it could have been edited by 100 pages and still have been just as funny, just as sensuous and a better read. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from reading this masterpiece of South American literature by one of Brasil’s most famous authors.