Review of Gringa by Joe Thomas

Published by Arcadia Books Limited in 2018    ISBN: 979-1-911350-24-8 

 Set in São Paulo during its re-development in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup, this is a pacy read portraying vividly the dynamism and dysfunction, seediness and sensuality, corruption and vibrancy of the world’s twelfth largest city. The author lived and worked here for ten years so knows it inside out.  Once again we meet Mario Leme, a detective, although not exactly a high- flyer, in the city police who featured in the author’s gritty debut Paradise City.  Leme befriends Ellie, a young journalist from Poole subbing on the cultural events pages of a local English language newspaper.  Ellie has stumbled across a source with amazing information that she believes will propel her into the upper echelons of serious investigative journalism. Leme accompanies her to the rendezvous building but remains outside when she enters. When she fails to emerge, he heads indoors only to be confronted by her mobile phone, the corpse of a man he doesn’t recognise and her worrying disappearance.  During the five days that Ellie is missing, the plot swings like a pendulum between her viewpoint and Leme’s, and back and forth in time. The author has achieved this so skillfully that it isn’t muddling or grating.  There is a glossary at the end and although some Portuguese words in the text are untranslated, this doesn’t interfere with the rhythm or understanding of the story that is simply nossa – wow!  The structure is tight and sharp, the dialogue and interaction between the characters snappy and, at times, humorous.  I can see it as perfect film noir/ TV material and, if you fancy a walk on the dark, wild side, you’d be hard put to  choose a more exciting travelling companion.

 Reviewer: Serena Fairfax

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