Every Bitter Thing

November 24, 2010

I just finished Leighton Gage’s latest Brasilia-based thriller, Every Bitter Thing, unfortunately too late for inclusion in the December Whodunit column in BookPage magazine. Gage’s name sounded familiar to me; perhaps I had read one of his books before? The milieu didn’t seem familiar, though; I’ve read any number of mysteries set in South America, even some from Brazil, but none (to the best of my admittedly moth-eaten memory) set in Brasilia. So, I went online and Googled myself and Leighton Gage just to see if we had had some previous connection; lo and behold, we showed up on the same website, namely this blog! It turns out that Leighton Gage had submitted a comment on one of the posts, and we traded emails a couple of times last year. He shares a blog, Murder is Everywhere (murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com), with a group of other mystery writers from far-flung corners of the globe: Timothy Hallinan (Thailand and Santa Monica), Yrsa Sigurdursdottir (Iceland), Cara Black (France), Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip (South Africa), Dan Waddell (England), and Jeffrey Siger (Greece).  Although the binding agent for the blog is the authors’ love of mysteries, the posts tend to be eclectic; the last several entries include a bio of a wartime Resistance fighter, a look at a clown (literally a working clown) elected to political office in Brazil, an op-ed piece on the state of Thai politics, a photographic tour of deserted Mykonos after the summer tourists have gone home, the upcoming cricket series between Britain and Australia (in which the winners walk away with an urn full of ashes), a glance at the wildlife of the Okavango Delta… you get the picture. And I thought I was all over the board!

Anyway, back to Every Bitter Thing, the fourth in the series featuring Brazilian federal police inspector Mario Silva. This time out, Silva is called in to handle the sensitive investigation into the murder with international political ramifications. The “sensitive” part comes in to play because the victim was gay, and to all indications his father, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, was unaware of his son’s “batting for the opposing team” (to borrow a line from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). Silva is astonished to find that the slaying bears certain similarities to several other murders in recent memory. The only seeming connection among the victims, however, is a tenuous one indeed: all apparently arrived on the same flight from Miami. There are other folks, numerous others in fact, who were passengers on the same flight; if Silva’s hunch is right, all of them are potential suspects—and potential future victims as well. Every Bitter Thing works well on many levels: as a tense police procedural; a political thriller; and a look at the juxtaposing of the haves and have-nots in a society not far removed from its Third World roots.

Sadly, I won’t have time to order the first three Silva books before leaving for Japan, and thanks to limited availability (and stratospheric prices) probably won’t have the opportunity to acquire them there either. That said, they will be on my short list for reading materials to unearth upon my return to North America next spring.

Every Bitter Thing; Leighton Gage; Soho Press; ISBN 9781569478455; 388pp; $25