I mentioned on Saturday that I was slightly annoyed at myself for not having read any Brazilian fiction as I had resolved to back at the start of January. So now being able to read books at a whim I decided then and there to grab the opportunity. ‘Lost World’ by Patricia Melo actually arrived during the week and was a surprise so I thought I would give it a whirl. Melo is a well know author in Brazil (even The Converted One seemed impressed) and so it seemed a good place to start my fictional Brazilian journey.
Lost World is a story of a father trying to find his daughter, only this is no typical father. Maiquel is an ex-contract killer who has been a fugitive for ten years. Now Brazil is a big city and from this book it seems like there are plenty of criminals to go around and so being a fugitive isn’t as hard as you would think. Maiquel proves this as he goes to the funeral of his aunty in broad daylight as the book opens. In fact his aunt’s death and his inheritance is what make him decide its time to find his daughter.
Finding Samantha doesn’t prove easy however, and not just because he is a wanted man. His ex-girlfriend Erica left him when she found out he was a contract killer and ran off with his daughter and an evangelical pastor and all three vanished. Maiquel has to deal with con-men, killers and detectives in order to pick up the tail of his lost daughter which takes him on a journey of treachery, dead ends and danger through the whole of Brazil and also Bolivia.
It’s an interesting read especially as Maiquel is such a complex character. I didn’t think I would come to like someone who is trained to kill and yet I ended up really wanting him to succeed regardless of what he did in order to try and get his daughter back. A complex character who likes women but won’t become attached, feels no guilt over pulling a trigger and yet rescues and nurses a dog he hits in the street. He is both vile and likeable all at once and makes for a compelling (and highly unreliable) narrator.
“People dying every day, run over, from cancer, getting shot in the face. You wait in line, without knowing, and then your number comes up. That’s what I believe. In the line. I also believe that I could be recognised out in the street, at anytime. Hey, aren’t you Maiquel, the hired killer? The one who’s better than barbed wire? Better than trenches? Better than armoured doors? The one who killed Santana? The one who riddled with bullets the belly of Dr Carvalho, that son of a bitch of a dentist? No one remembered about the Man of the Year anymore. For services to the community. Or the scum I took off the streets, everybody had forgot that. Now and then people remembered me, but it was always in some account about dangerous killers. Wanted, they said. One of the most wanted.”
Melo’s writing is quite blunt with short sentences that get you to the point, she also doesn’t hold back on anything and in some ways I had to occasionally remind myself this was written by a woman. I don’t mean that in a sexist way, it’s just the style was quite masculine. I liked the thrill of the book though it wasn’t a thriller exactly and it isn’t crime fiction, nor would I label it an adventure. In fact I would be hard pushed to label this book which is another reason why I think I liked it so much, it was different and comes recommended if you want a different read and like crime fiction/thrillers or literary fiction with quite a pace. I also found out after reading it this is actually a belated sequel to ‘The Killer’ which of course I now want to read!
This was a great start off for Brazilian reading for me, though I have read Heliopolis I am not counting it as it was read last year. In fact it was quite perfect as I was taken through the whole of Brazil including the all important state of Mato Grosso and Cuiaba where The Converted One is from, as well as the south of Brazil where roots will be being laid in 2011.
Have you read any Melo? What fiction from Brazil have you read and what would you recommend? Which narrators have you liked in fiction that you really shouldn’t have but couldn’t help it?