Alone in the Crowd
Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
Holt, Jul 2009, $23.00
At a bank in Rio de Janeiro, pensioner Dona Laureta withdraws her money from the same teller Hugo Breno every month like clockwork. She leaves the bank, goes to the grocery and pharmacy, and then she travels to the police of the Twelfth Precinct in Copacabana. She asks to speak with the chief, but Espinoza is tied up in a meeting. She decides to leave and come back later, but instead is run over by a bus; bystanders believe she was deliberately pushed.
The police interrogate Breno who remains a person of interest. Espinoza has him under surveillance. They learn he has no friends, conducts a fanatical physical exercise program, and walks in dense crowds without speaking to anyone. Espinoza is unaware that Breno has been watching him for decades and even came to the same park when they were children. A memory of a child’s death makes the cop wonder if the teller was involved. They meet at a restaurant and Hugo tells his story to Espinoza. A day later Laureta’s friend is killed. Espinoza is sure that Breno killed both women, but has no evidence. Both adversaries risk their lives with similar yet differing purposes.
The translation of this novel is executed perfectly (by Benjamin Moser) so that the Brazilian customs come across full of life but different from America and especially how that impacts the way the police do their job in Rio. Ergo readers will feel they are in Brazil and not in their armchair. Inspector Espinoza is a good person doing a good job as he struggles with an investigation that contains a personal twist, but seems to be going nowhere though he is 100 percent positive Breno is the killer. The audience will admire the lead character and want to read his past cases (see BLACKOUT and PURSUIT) as the aptly titled ALONE IN THE CROWD is a super Brazilian police procedural.