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A Window in Copacabana: An Inspector Espinosa Mystery    by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza order for
Window in Copacabana
by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2005 (2001)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This psychological police procedural is unusual in two ways - it's set in Brazil, and its protagonist, Espinosa, is a police inspector (in charge of Rio de Janeiro's 12th Precinct) with a philosophic outlook on life, and a dream of leaving the police force and opening a bookstore. He anticipates and dreads reaching the point in his career 'when every day became a kind of anesthetic, transforming pain, sadness, and suffering into a permanent tedium ... transforming real emotions into simple indifference.'

In Copacabana, three policemen are killed over several days, one soon after he approached Espinosa about the other deaths. Soon afterwards, their mistresses are murdered, except for Celeste, the smart one who disappears. Though Espinosa himself is a straight cop, corruption is rampant in the police force, and his investigators dig (with little cooperation from their peers) to find out what aspect is in play here and why it has led to assassinations. They also work hard to find Celeste before the killer does.

Early in the story, Espinosa is attracted to a pretty woman he sees in a cafe, 'wearing a tight skirt slit up the side'. Serena, wife of a government official, shows up again later in the plot as witness to murder. She saw someone fall (she believes the woman was pushed) from a window of an apartment opposite hers, after a purse was tossed out the window. At this stage a surreal element enters the story. Serena forces herself into the investigation. She's clearly bored, and something of a risk-taker, but what really are her motives?

Soon, Espinosa's previously quiet life is complicated by three women - his lover Irene, Celeste and Serena. The story develops langorously, as befits the tropical coastal surroundings. I enjoyed the exotic setting, and getting to know the unusual Inspector Espinosa in A Window in Copacabana.

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