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This Brazilian best-seller, a waggishly intellectual detective story by the author of High Art (1986), asks who shot socialite Delfina Delamares in her Mercedes--and also why Gustavo Flavio's narrative of the murder keeps coming back to his obsession with toads. Years before taking a Flaubertian pseudonym for his many successful books, you see, the narrator lived a life as Ivan Canabrava--the insurance agent who suspected that wealthy Mauricio Estrucho, shortly after taking out a fat life-insurance policy, didn't really die but used venom from the toad Bufo marinus to induce a deathlike coma. Flavio proved it, with the help of romantic rivals Zilda and Minolta, through self-experimentation; but then had to go on the lam after his attempt to dig up Estrucho's grave led to the death of a gravedigger. Now, beset by police detective Guedes, by Delfina Delamares' widower Eugenio (who seems to have put all Rio in his pocket in trying to cover up the circumstances of his wife's death), and maybe even by the returning Estrucho, Flavio despairs of being able to get down to serious work on his historical romance Bufo & Spallanzani--in which the medieval sage Spallanzani experimentally mutilates a pair of lovers, Bufo and Marina, who just happen to be toads. Long before hired gunman Agenor Silva's bogus confession to Delfina's murder makes it clear why Flavio worries about the novelist's curse of ending weakly, the stories of Bufo, Canabrava, and Flavio will have gotten stylishly muddled by the question of who's manipulating whom. An archly amusing romp, poisoned tongue firmly in cheek.

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 1990
Publisher: Dutton