Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Book Review of Leighton Gage's A Vine in the Blood

A Vine in the Blood by Leighton Gage

"Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood" (Ezekiel 19:10)

The blood-red tint of bougainvilleas is the main concern of an unusual color-blind gardener named Luca Vas when he arrives at the São Paolo home of Juraci Santos. Santos is a vindictive, distrustful woman who just happens to be the mother of the greatest, as well as most famous, fútbol player in the world. Luca wants to stay on her good side, so he is making some changes in the garden. Luca does not expect to find actual red blood, the color of which he can only imagine, and in such a way that he will never forget. Murder has been done and Juraci Santos is missing.

Tico "The Artist" Santos is the principal striker for the Brazilian team, which has been favored to win the FIFA Fútbol World Cup, the most highly anticipated sporting event on earth, which is being hosted by Brazil and is slated to start in three weeks. Whereas for many fútbol lovers, the game is their main love, for The Artist, elite though he may be, his mother is more important.

São Paulo
Fútbol is better known to us as soccer, but the rest of the world prefers the original name because it is a game matching balls and feet. I was fascinated by the little tidbit Gage dropped in the story that the English brought the game to Brazil. It took off in such a way that the prophetic words of Ezekiel can equally be rephrased to say, "Fútbol is like a vine in the blood" because it takes hold of a fan to the point of mania. Thus, there is a national push to get this crime solved as quickly as possible. Chief Inspector Mario Silva and his crack team from the federal police are summoned to São Paulo and the game is afoot. (I couldn't resist that).

It is immediately obvious that there is a long list of people who might want to keep The Artist off the field when Brazil goes for its sixth World Cup title. The motives could be personal, or business, or even nationalistic. Could this be the work of Argentina, Brazil’s most bitter rival? Perhaps the culprits are trying to ruin the bookmaking odds or it might even be the work of someone who just would like Juraci out of her son's life. Whatever the reasons, The Artist is definitely not focused on his game.

I was caught up in the fútbol fever within a few pages of opening the book. Leighton Gage paces this interesting, exciting story just like the build-up to a big game. There is a rhythm behind the scenes that suggests a drumbeat––like that of the samba inexorably drawing the reader in to become part of the common denominator that unifies all strata of Brazilian society, from the President to the peon. Inspector Mario Silva's mandate is clear: he is to find Juraci Santos alive and before the World Cup begins. All of Brazil is depending on it. He has 13 days.

Murder mysteries are my main reading and it is always exciting to find a novel that takes me to an interesting locale and that is an original, exotic and stimulating story. The finale of this complex tale was not what I expected, but it made sense. This is the fifth of the Mario Silva series. As it has progressed, the characters and their personal lives are being fleshed out, which adds to the story without diluting the action. Though part of a series, this book can be read as a standalone because it is complete within itself. You can read it while others are watching the Super Bowl if American football is not your cup of coffee––Brazilian coffee, of course. In the end it was GOAL!! Leighton Gage.


  1. In Europe (Belgium and The Netherlands) we have 3 books of L. GAGE now in the shops and in a few weeks we can buy the 4th (Every Bitter Thing )translated in Dutch!
    The author becomes more and more famous here!!
    No wonder: in his books we learn so much more about the unknown life in Brasil AND his stories are so original!
    Let us hope there's a translation of Vine in the Blood in the coming months...
    Belgium is waiting mr Gage!!

  2. For myself I am already looking for the next one. It might take a year but I am sure it will be worth the wait.

  3. Christiane, I hope you have a chance to read A VINE IN THE BLOOD in Dutch soon. I haven't yet read it, but I've read the others, and I'll read this one, too.

    I'm a big fan of both Gage's Mario Silva series set in Brazil and FIFA soccer. (The women's final between the USA and Japan was an absolutely top-notch game, and I'm looking forward to the men's World Cup in a few years.) A Mario Silva book that includes a Brazilian soccer player will be very entertaining to read. This series just gets better and better.

  4. Leighton Gage is a master at examining Brazil's social issues. Chief Inspector Mario Silva and the series regulars are becoming more complex as the series continues. The books are first class.

    I'm glad they're now available in Belgium and the Netherlands, Christiane.