THE KILLER by Patricia Melo


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An improbably dissociated killer stalks the So Paulo streets with the citizens' cooperation and gratitude in Melo's first English publication. A used-car salesman loses a bet on a soccer match and has to dye his hair and mustache blond. He's in a bad mood from a toothache anyway, so he picks a fight with Suel, an acquaintance at the local bar and challenges him to a duel. When Suel doesn't want to fight, he shoots him down. Now MaÁquel is a wanted man: Everybody in So Paulo wants to give him thanks and presents for killing no-account Suel. Dr. Carvalho even offers him free dental care if he'll just kill his daughter Gabriela's rapist, and this time, reports MaÁquel, ""the gifts were even better than when I killed Suel."" Even though MaÁquel just wants to settle down with his bride Cledir, the clothing-store clerk he raped--or maybe with Suel's grieving girlfriend ¸rica--the increasingly lucrative offers keep pouring in so fast (would he please kill the kid who's ripping off Dr. Carvalho's friend Mr. Silvio? how about the car thief who's plaguing the neighborhood?) that eventually MaÁquel, en route to being acclaimed Citizen of the Year, takes the step canny readers will have seen coming a long way off: He goes into partnership with a detective to offer protection--a little law, a lot of firepower--to subscribing locals. Through it all, whether he's killing bad guys, roughing up his women, or dreaming about a new pair of shoes, MaÁquel resolutely (and eerily) declines to go into his feelings about anything deeper than that toothache, and the resulting flatness of his narration, faithfully rendered by the translator, gives a throwaway aura to his increasingly surrealistic adventures. Little Caesar recast as pitch-black Brazilian farce--with appropriately distorted echoes of The Maltese Falcon, The Stranger, and Yojimbo.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1997
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Ecco