Joe Thomas

Paradise City

"" much a novel about grief as it is a crime novel. " "


Mario Leme is a low-ranking detective in the São Paulo civil police. Every day, he drives through the favela known as Paraisópolis – Paradise City. It's a pilgrimage: a year ago, his wife Renata was the victim of a stray bullet here in a conflict between drug dealers and the military police.

One morning, parked near the place where Renata died, he sees an SUV careen out of control. By the time the fire crew arrive on the scene to cut the driver loose, he's dead. Leme catches a glimpse of the body before the military police cover it up. He's sure he sees bullet wounds. But if the driver was murdered, why is the coroner saying the death was an accident?

Leme soon has evidence that the driver's death was murder. When the driver's girlfriend turns up dead soon afterwards, Leme starts to wonder if he's really been told the truth about Renata's death.

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Joe Thomas lived in São Paulo for ten years, and it shows. The novel is steeped in the rich atmosphere of the Southern Hemisphere's most populous city. Set a few years before the 2014 World Cup, with São Paulo preparing to be one of the host cities, the plot centres around the clean-up work being done by the city's powerful as they prepare for the event. A sense of place is an important part of any crime novel and few writers do is as well as Joe Thomas has done with 'Paradise City'. The city of São Paulo lives and breathes on every page. Thomas doesn't flinch from the negative aspects of the city – the terrible poverty and corruption, the crime and the ever-increasing traffic – but he makes it clear too how much there is to see and do and enjoy in this vast, vibrant city. 'Paradise City' is as much a novel about grief as it is a crime novel. Leme's journey, through the streets of the city he's lived in all his life, as he comes to terms with his loss is deeply moving. As a beginner's guide to one of South America's most complex, complicated and energetic cities, you won't find a better book.

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