Picks and Pans Review: High Art

UPDATED 09/08/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/08/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Rubem Fonseca

Fonseca's first book to be published in English is a brutal murder mystery set in Brazil. It starts out in the familiar Sam Spade style, except that the hero, who is known as Mandrake, is a lawyer instead of a private eye. People bring him their troubles. It ends up as a complex, multicharacter exploration of Rio's underbelly—with drug-ridden orgies, hit men, political corruption, incest and insanity in one eminent family. A couple of prostitutes are killed: The murderer has carved the letter "P" on each face. A man from a socially prominent family comes and asks the lawyer to find a mysterious videocassette. Then one night Mandrake goes home to his apartment and finds two men waiting for him. They ask him for the tape, and when he says he doesn't have it, they stab him and abuse his girlfriend. When Mandrake recovers, he goes all out for revenge—the killers, part of a powerful drug ring, have become the objects of his obsession. The novel takes a curious turn when it dips into the past to explain the strange family history of the master villain, a man of vast wealth and eccentricity. Another bad guy—a black dwarf who talks compulsively—shows up, too. The meticulous details of knives and how they are used are guaranteed to make a reader squirm in discomfort, but Fonseca, who has a law degree and is a major literary figure in Brazil, tells his fantastic horror tale with stylish originality. (Harper & Row, $17.95)

Your Reaction

Follow Us

On Newsstands Now

Robin Roberts: How Loved Saved Me
  • Robin Roberts: How Loved Saved Me
  • Emma and Andrew: All About Hollywood's Cutest Couple
  • Prince George! More Yummy Photos

Pick up your copy on newsstands

Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine

Advertisement

From Our Partners

Watch It

Editors' Picks

From Our Partners



Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters