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by Leighton Gage
Soho Crime, January 2014
352 pages
ISBN: 1616952725

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Mario Silva has no desire whatsoever to go to Para to investigate what seems to be a genocide. It is coming up on the anniversary of the death of his son, a bad time every year for his wife, who has a little problem with alcohol. He has no choice - strings have been pulled. The local tribal relations agent, Jade Calmon, has friends in high places.

Once Silva gets to Azevedo, nobody can think of any reason why anyone in town would want the Awana tribe gone. Not the people who want the land, which is reserved for the tribe. Not the people who want the timber on that land, which is being illegally harvested anyway. Jade believes that 39 of the last 41 Awana have been poisoned; she is correct.

A local landowner is murdered outside the tavern and one of the last two Awana is found passed out next to the body, with the murder weapon in his bloody hands. Jade is the only person who doesn't believe Amati killed Omar Torres. Everyone else in town immediately tells the same story: Amati killed Omar because Omar killed the rest of the Awana. They all heard Omar threaten to kill the Awana for one reason or another. It must have been him, and Amati killed him for revenge. Nobody in town gives any weight to Jade's conviction that Amati didn't drink, Amati was not tall enough to kill Omar, that there are other people with a motive to kill Omar. Then Amati is lynched - the whole town saw it, but nobody saw a thing. Silva has his work cut out for him.

Mario Silva is a flawed man, working within a very flawed system. He is not optimistic about what he will find, or that justice will be served. Still, he perseveres because he can do no less. His team doesn't always agree with his choices; mostly, they do as they are told. They are as human as he is.

Leighton Gage is one of those rare writers who can write about social issues without being pedantic. There are many facets to the issue of the indigenous peoples and their future, both in Brazil and elsewhere. Gage presents those facets within the framework of a well-written police procedural. While there is a solution to the mystery at the end of EVIL MEN, there is no pat answer to all the questions Gage presents along the way to that solution.

On a personal note: I read EVIL MEN with my usual delight at having another Leighton Gage work in hand. I've enjoyed his writing since his first book, BLOOD OF THE WICKED. Knowing that this would be the last Gage I'd ever read dampened my usual enthusiasm. I will miss him, both as a person and as a writer.

P.J. Coldren lives in northern lower Michigan where she reads and reviews widely across the mystery genre when she isn't working in her local hospital pharmacy.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, January 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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