Author: Frei Beto
Translator: Jethro Soutar
Original language: Portuguese
Published by: Bitter Lemon, 2014
The setting for this witty and insightful debut crime novel is a Rio de Janeiro family hotel. Rio is the perfect backdrop with its history of military dictatorship, drug wars, child gangs and violent policing tactics. The decapitated body of a hotel resident is found. The eyes have been removed from the head, casually left on the floor of the room. The victim's eerie, frozen Mona Lisa smile seems to indicate that the murderer had been received as a friend. This classical crime novel provides an opportunity for Frei Betto (a Dominican friar, once a political prisoner, a union activist and then an adviser to President Lula da Silva) to describe Brazilian society, especially those left at its edge, like Rio's favela children, abused, hunted-down, but also addicted to drugs and violent crime.