García-Roza, Luiz Alfredo 1936-
García-Roza, Luiz Alfredo 1936-
Born 1936, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Education: Attained doctorate degrees in philosophy and psychology.
Home—Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Writer, novelist, and educator. Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, professor of philosophy and psychology, c. 1963-98, professor emeritus, 1998—, organizer of postgraduate program in psychoanalytic theory.
Prêmio Nestlé and Prêmio Jabuti, both 1996, both for O Silêncio da Chuva; "favorite books of 2002" citation, January magazine, 2002, for The Silence of the Rain.
Psicologia estrutural em Kurt Lewin, Editora Vozes (Petropolis, Brazil), 1972.
Berenice procura, Companhia das Letras (São Paulo, Brazil), 2005.
"INSPECTOR ESPINOSA" MYSTERY SERIES; NOVELS
Vento Sudoeste, Companhia das Letras (São Paulo, Brazil), 1999, translation by Benjamin Moser published as Southwesterly Wind, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2004.
Uma janela em Copacabana, Companhia das Letras (São Paulo, Brazil), 2001, translation by Benjamin Moser published as A Window in Copacabana, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2005.
Persequido, Companhia das Letras (São Paulo, Brazil), 2003, translation by Benjamin Moser published as Pursuit, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2006.
Author of eight scholarly books on philosophy and psychology, published in Brazil.
The Silence of the Rain has been optioned by a Brazilian film company.
At a time when many people contemplate retirement, near age sixty, Luiz Alfredo García-Roza embarked upon a whole new career that has taken him into the international literary spotlight. An emeritus professor of philosophy and psychology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, García- Roza decided to try his hand at writing detective fiction. He has since produced a series of novels featuring an investigator in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, named Espinosa, and these works—translated as The Silence of the Rain, December Heat, Southwesterly Wind, and Pursuit—have become best sellers. To quote Larry Rohter in the New York Times, "Critics continue to praise [García-Roza] for giving a distinctly Brazilian twist to the familiar formula of the police procedural and private eye novel."
García-Roza had scant experience with police stations, coroners' offices, or the process of solving murders when he embarked upon his fictive enterprise. He learned how the Rio police work by getting to know real detectives and listening to their stories. García- Roza also had to overcome a bias that affects Brazilian readers—since the country was run by a military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985, Brazilians tend to distrust law enforcement. The author tried to create a policeman with whom readers could identify, and the result was Inspector Espinosa, a divorced, sometimes lonely, socially withdrawn man with a deep love of books and a sense of honor that even he admits is unpopular and old-fashioned. Once studying to be a lawyer, Espinosa dropped his academic work to become a police officer in order to support his wife and infant son. Later, both wife and son abandoned him, leaving him alone in a dreary apartment in Copacabana. As much through inertia as intent, Espinosa remained on the police force. Paula Friedman described Espinosa in the Los Angeles Times Book Review: "Something of a literary buff …, Espinosa spends a good deal of time mulling over the intricacies of character, both those he finds in literature and in real life. Despite his idiosyncrasies, Espinosa never comes off as a mere caricature of the offbeat detective; rather, he reminds us that policemen may also be as complex and as ordinary as anyone else." In an interview with Mehroo Siddiqui on the Absolute Writer Web site, García-Roza remarked: "With Inspector Espinosa, I intended to create a character that provided the image of an ethical policeman, not as a utopian ideal but as a real possibility."
One of the important characteristics that separates Espinosa from his counterparts in the United States and other industrialized countries is that he "works in a third world environment fundamentally different from that familiar to readers of police books in the United States and Europe," noted Rohter in his New York Times profile of García-Roza. For example, when the investigator tires to identify a corpse burned beyond recognition, he ruefully observes that in the United States, the victim could be identified by dental records. In Brazil, most people do not have a dentist, and many do not even have their teeth. Rohter noted that García-Roza "is also admired for the way he uses the landscape and weather of Rio de Janeiro as another character, subtly evoking the spirit and peculiar qualities of the city, much as [Raymond] Chandler did for Los Angeles." The subtleties of atmosphere and background form important threads in the fabric of the stories the author tells.
In The Silence of the Rain, Espinosa is called upon to solve a peculiar case. A wealthy mining executive is found dead in his car, the victim of a gunshot wound. As Espinosa investigates, the death seems first a homicide, then a suicide, then a more baffling mélange of theft, insurance fraud, and manipulated evidence. The trail goes murkier as the executive's secretary disappears and Espinosa forms a romantic attachment to a woman whose boyfriend may have played a part in the crime. Brad Hooper in Booklist called the work a "beautifully atmospheric, hard-boiled crime novel." Las Vegas Mercury reviewer John Ziebell praised the book as "an excellent example of a work that uses a blend of wit, eloquence, craft, and dark comedy to circumvent … easy classifications." Ziebell added that The Silence of the Rain "is also a rewarding and spirited entertainment that takes itself slightly less seriously than, say, life and death."
December Heat pulls readers into another intriguing case. A prostitute has been murdered, and all the evidence points to her longtime customer, Vieira Crisostomo, one of Espinosa's former colleagues. But even though Crisostomo cannot remember what happened the night of the murder due to his drunkenness, he and Espinosa both know that the real killer has set him up. According to J. Kingston Pierce in January Magazine, December Heat "isn't big on forensic gore or cinematic gunplay.… García-Roza comes off in these pages as a joyful sensualist, who can appreciate a sun-blessed beach … the piquancy of a fine meal and the seemingly contradictory isolation to be had within a crowd." The critic went on to describe the novel as a "smartly conceived, intelligent and distinctly foreign yarn, more erotically charged than tales produced in the puritanical United States or Britain." Rex Klett in the Library Journal likewise praised December Heat as "an exciting procedural, infused with exotic ambience." Hooper, in another Booklist review, stated that the novel "features a full cast of characters, each distinctly drawn, and a pace guaranteed to quicken the reader's pulse."
Southwesterly Wind, the third Inspector Espinosa novel, finds young business executive Gabriel deep in the grip of fear as he nears the age of thirty. Gabriel fears not for himself but for the lives of others. A mysterious Argentine psychic predicted on his twenty-ninth birthday that Gabriel would kill someone before he turned thirty years old. Fearful that the prediction will come true, but with no real evidence or motive or even a possible victim, Gabriel comes to Espinosa for help, begging to be stopped before he kills. The bemused Espinosa cannot do much about a crime that has not occurred, much less one that seems unlikely to occur, but he assigns Detective Welber to follow Gabriel around, just in case the young man's fears manifest into reality. The police also begin looking for the fortune-teller, who is finally located and who insists he is neither Argentine nor a psychic. As time passes, Gabriel becomes more and more psychologically frayed under the stress of the prediction. When murders do eventually occur, Espinosa must take the ominous prediction as seriously as Gabriel does himself. A Shots reviewer commented: "Espinosa is an original, a welcome addition to the ranks of fictional cops." Booklist reviewer Bill Ott called Espinosa "perhaps the most interesting new crime protagonist in the genre," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor named the novel a "beguiling and ingenious introduction to the magical world of García-Roza's Rio, in which places have considerably more solidity than people." A reviewer in the Guardian concluded that the novel is a "haunting and seductive read."
An unknown triggerman has murdered three police officers in A Window in Copacabana, and similarities all point to a single unknown gunman, mostly likely a fellow cop. As Espinosa delves into the case, disturbing facts begin to emerge. All of the dead policemen led double lives and had mistresses. Soon, the mistresses themselves begin to die. As part of his investigation, Espinosa assembles an exclusive task force that reports to him alone. Soon, the task force finds evidence of deep corruption in the police force, a distasteful possibility inimical to the ethical and upright Espinosa. Clearly, the stakes are much higher than simple infidelity and dalliances on the side, and Espinosa must determine why one cop would turn on another in his precinct. With time running out, Espinosa realizes he has to find the remaining mistress, Celeste Cardoso, whose best friend was thrown out the window in a case of mistaken identity. García-Roza "writes like nobody else in the world," remarked a Kirkus Reviews critic, and with A Window in Copacabana has "produced altogether the most ebullient and delightful tale of serial homicide you'll read this year." In assessing the book, a Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded: "Fans of sophisticated crime fiction with an exotic locale are in for a treat."
In Pursuit, Rio-based psychiatrist Dr. Nesse takes on a troubled young patient named Isidoro, who calls himself Jonas Cruz. Jonas becomes involved with the doctor's eldest daughter, Leticia, and when the seventeen-year-old girl disappears, Nesse is certain that Jonas is responsible. Leticia soon reappears, convinced that Jonas is not as psychologically impaired as her father thinks. Heedless of his daughter's perception, he fakes an attack on himself by Jonas and sedates the man, sending him away to a hospital for treatment. There, Jonas disappears and is presumed dead. Shortly thereafter, the situation worsens for Nesse. His younger daughter, Roberta, also disappears, and his wife is murdered. In the midst of Espinosa's investigation, Nesse himself is murdered. Suspicion falls on the wronged Jonas, but as the evidence mounts, there ap- pears to be not one but two murderers involved. García-Roza's "conception of the psychological murder is both refreshing and outstanding, and his presentation—in three separate sections—unusual," commented reviewer Alan Paul Curtis on the Who- Dunnit Web site.
In an interview with the New York Times, García-Roza observed that his years teaching psychoanalysis and philosophy actually helped him to understand how detectives work. "Policemen are like psychiatrists in that they live at the frontiers of two different universes, the normal and its opposite," he said. "The territory in which they operate is the dividing line between sanity and madness, order and disorder, and I find that borderline and the confrontations it produces to be fascinating."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Americas, May-June, 2004, Barbara Mujica, "Victories and Crimes of Romance," review of December Heat, p. 62.
Booklist, May 1, 2002, Brad Hooper, review of The Silence of the Rain; May 1, 2003, Brad Hooper, review of December Heat, p. 1538; February 15, 2004, Bill Ott, review of Southwesterly Wind, p. 1041; November 1, 2004, Brad Hooper, review of A Window in Copacabana, p. 468.
Guardian (Manchester, England), January 21, 2006, "Messy Crisis," review of Southwesterly Wind.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2002, review of The Silence of the Rain, p. 707; April 15, 2003, review of December Heat, p. 574; January 15, 2004, review of Southwesterly Wind, p. 62; November 1, 2004, review of A Window in Copacabana, p. 1030.
Las Vegas Mercury, October 3, 2003, John Ziebell, "Chandler in Rio."
Library Journal, July, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of The Silence of the Rain, p. 125; April 1, 2003, Rex E. Klett, review of December Heat, p. 133; February 1, 2004, Brian Kenney, review of Southwesterly Wind, p. 129; December 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of A Window in Copacabana, p. 95; June 15, 2005, Anne Berard, "South of the Border: Latin American Fiction," review of The Silence of the Rain, p. 119.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 18, 2002, Paula Friedman, "When Violence and Love Collide," p. 2.
New York Times, June 7, 2000, Larry Rohter, "Whodunit? Professor Turned Novelist, That's Who," p. E2.
Publishers Weekly, June 10, 2002, review of The Silence of the Rain, p. 44; May 12, 2003, review of December Heat, p. 48; November 29, 2004, review of A Window in Copacabana, p. 26.
San Francisco Chronicle, August 11, 2002, Tom Nolan, "Unusual Sanity Amid Rio's Chaos; Bookish Cop Wends His Way through Murders in Brazil," review of The Silence of the Rain, p. RV-5.
Absolute Write,http://www.absolutewrite.com/ (December 20, 2006), Mehroo Siddiqui, interview with Luiz Alfredo García-Roza.
Book Haven,http://www.thebookhaven.net/ (December 20, 2006), Amy Coffin, review of A Window in Copacabana.
January Magazine,http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (May, 2003), J. Kingston Pierce, "Bravo, Rio!," review of December Heat.
Shots,http://www.shotsmag.co.uk/ (December 20, 2006), review of Southwesterly Wind.
Who-Dunnit Web site,http://www.who-dunnit.com/ (December 20, 2006), Alan Paul Curtis, review of Pursuit.