In Betto’s debut thriller, a killer is loose in a Rio de Janeiro residential hotel.
“Rooms for single ladies and gentlemen. Family environment,” announces the sign Dona Dinó has hung outside the Hotel Brasil. And indeed her guests—political aide Rui Pacheco, aspiring telenovela actress Rosaura dos Santos, journalist Marcelo Braga, retired puta Madame Larência, cross-dressing nightclub singer Diamante Negro—feel like family in their combination of community, reserve and selective dislike. But the family comes under attack when retired salesman Seu Marçal, who still peddles the odd gemstone, is stabbed to death and relieved of first his eyes and then his head. Delegado Olinto Del Bosco, head of the Delagacia da Lapa, can think of no better approach to police work than to arrest hotel caretaker Jorge Maldonado and beat a confession out of him. And retired professor Cândido Oliviera, a hotel resident who’s the logical candidate to serve as a more effective detective, is distracted by his long-running concern for the neighborhood’s street kids, especially the glue-sniffing 11-year-old Beatriz, and his new professional collaboration with acclaimed anthropologist Mônica Kundali, which would surely blossom into love if only he could beat back his schoolboy shyness. As it is, no one takes the investigation firmly in hand, leaving the “Lapa Decapa” free to move on to other hotel residents, though not before first-timer Betto has provided incisive back stories for each of them.
Intertwines absurdly understated violence with a reflective portrait of the city and its types so anthropologically precise that you’ll mourn each new victim—and that’s a lot of mourning.