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THE KILLER by Patricia Melo

THE KILLER

By Patricia Melo

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1997
ISBN: 0-88001-574-8
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

 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 Ma°quel 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 Ma°quel, ``the gifts were even better than when I killed Suel.'' Even though Ma°quel just wants to settle down with his bride Cledir, the clothing-store clerk he raped--or maybe with Suel's grieving girlfriend êrica--the increasingly lucrative offers keep pouring in so fast (would he please kill the kid who's ripping off Dr. Carvalho's friend Mr. S°lvio? how about the car thief who's plaguing the neighborhood?) that eventually Ma°quel, 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, Ma°quel 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.