Bellotto has no trouble discovering dark doings in what he describes as “the most populous city in Brazil, the Americas, the Portuguese-speaking world, and the entire Southern Hemisphere.”
São Paulo’s size and diversity give this volume’s 14 storytellers room to roam. There’s tony but fading Ciadade Jardim, where Amelinha lives out her declining years with the help of her maid in Ilana Casoy’s “Boniclaide and Mrs. Als.” And there’s modern, fast-paced Mooca, where Jô Soares’ detective probes the death of an elderly woman who comes to São Paulo to visit her niece in “My Name is Nicky Nicola.” But from genteel Panamerica to rough and tumble Baixo Augusta, what stands out in Bellotto’s volume is the placement of women at the center of many stories. In addition to Boniclaide, there are three other maids: Cléo and Lena, who clean hotel rooms in Vanessa Barbara’s “Cross Contamination,” and Dulcinea, who works for the flaky title character in Mario Prata’s “Teresão.” There are prostitutes, including the crafty Cínthia in Ferréz’s “Flow,” the gentle but nameless girl from Minas Gerais in Marcelo Rubens Paiva’s “The Final Table,” and the feisty, unforgettable heroine of Drauzio Varella’s “Margot.” Women’s stories are often family stories. In editor Bellotto’s “Useless Diary,” a young woman searches for her twin brother, and in “The Force Is With Me,” co-written by veteran author Beatriz Bracher and 17-year-old Maria S. Carvalhosa, a teenager from Rio gets to know her maiden aunt. But women on their own can be dangerous, as Olivia Maia points out in “Coffee Stain.”
In the year of #MeToo, Bellotto’s Akashic entry has a timely feel, giving noir a host of feminine faces.