The spies by Luis Fernando Verissimo

the spies luis verissimo

The Spies by Luis Fernando Vermissimo

Brazilian fiction

Translator Margaret Jull Costa

Original Os Espiões

source – review copy

Well finally I m getting round to my advent Christmas books from Brazil rather late ,we were off work last week and I decided to take a back seat from blogging reading and books as I decide to spend time with Amanda and my family as they had come to see us both.

Anyway back to the book this is another gem from Machlehose I remember his earlier book called Borges and the eternal Orangutans ,a book which caught my eye just by its title so this one , intrigued me So Luis Fernando Verissimo who is he ,well he is probably one of the best known writers in his homeland of Brazil ,his father was a well-known writer ,he started in papers as a copy editor then work up too being a columnist ,well-known for his satire and being a critic of certain right wingers in Brazil ,he has published   seven novel and tens of collections of short stories .

“Our past the living room in the old house with the candle burning on the floor the corner of the ruined garden where he said that if the moon smiled she would resemble me and I cried “are you calling me “moon-faced” ?! and he kissed me me on the mouth for the first time “only with her heart closed could she exact just revenge for what they had done to her father too ”

the note sent too our narrator

The spies as I said is comic noir set in Vermissimo native Brazil ,we meet our narrator he works in a publishing house and receives a mysterious letter from a women called Ariadne from a small town called frondosa ,this town far away from the narrator is in the middle or wild part of Brazil ,she has sent him some writing but he reads finds out she is after revenge and she is going kill her self as her brother and father have been killed by the local gangsters a pair of brothers that live in a foot ball mad town .So our narrator ,decides to leave behind his drunk evenings in the bar discussing the rights and wrongs of books to find out more about this town and the women that sent this too him .Eventually drawing in his drink buddies to spy and thus become the spies .what do they find out ? well read the book ?

The latest news from Frondosa was our man inside had met Franco Martelli .He had been shown round the factory by him and invited to lunch at his house .into the monsters lair !

the man they choose to try to spy reports back

This book is full of humour witty bits on books and writing and middle age men trying to be spies and not always doing it well ,the fact our main character is a hapless chap ,and he is stuck in a rut when Adriadne and the town of Frondosa appears in his and his friends lives is the spark for this adventure  .It has echoes of classic noir the mysterious women ,who may or may not been under the thumb of the bad guy or is she all she seems ,remind me of the classics of Noir cinema ,but then you have our narrator and his friends that come across as characters from an Ealing comedy the great ensemble bits like the lavender hill mob or the ladykillers .so if you fancy a book like the Maltese falcon  done by Ealing films with a few bottles of rum and a jazz album on in the background.There is also maybe a feeling of Greek myths our narrator as a hero Adriadne  on the way to kill and kill her self over her father’s death sounds like it appeals  this is the book for you .As ever Jull Costa translation seems spot on.

Memories of Brazil for me ,well never being to Brazil but  one of the themes in this book is football and I remember the first brazilian I saw that  really made an impact on English football that was Juninho Paulista as he is known but we knew him just as Juninho when he was playing for Middlesbrough so I found a clip video on youtube he was small and quick ,with a big smile it always seemed .

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Richard
    Dec 11, 2012 @ 18:19:42

    “Comic noir”? Sounds great! Also want to read the Borges/orangutan book, which I’ve heard nothing but good things about. Cheers!


  2. Guy Savage
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 01:49:55

    I’ve read two other books by this author and they were both fantastic. Thanks for the heads up. It’s about time that another of this author’s novels made it to translation


  3. Sarah
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 09:47:06

    Thanks for the review Stu. I have this on my shelf to read and I really should move it up the pile.


  4. Jacqui (@jacquiwine)
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 17:58:01

    This one sounds great, Stu. I love classic film noir and The Ladykillers (original version) is a terrific film. I haven’t come across this author, so will try to seek it out. 🙂


  5. Caroline
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 18:48:05

    This sounds great. That Borges/orangutan title is really something.


  6. Parrish
    Dec 14, 2012 @ 21:15:28

    Have Borges and the eternal Orang-utan, on my bookshelves after seeing it on another blog, have yet to read it tho.


  7. Trackback: The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas | kiss a cloud
  8. Jacqui (@jacquiwine)
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 08:49:17

    I really enjoyed this book. It’s very engaging and full of offbeat dark humour. Just as you say in your review, there are echoes of film noir played out by characters reminiscent of a Brazilian version of an Ealing comedy – I can see your comparison to The Ladykillers! The book is beautifully produced too. I loved the illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. Thanks for posting your review as it prompted me to seek it out.


  9. Trackback: Review: Luis Fernando Verissimo – The Spies | crimepieces
  10. Marie
    Dec 07, 2013 @ 19:56:43

    This sounds like so much fun – you had me at The Maltese Falcon meets Ealing studios. I love the book blogging community so much for bringing little gems like this to my attention! Must keep an eye out for a copy myself.


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December 2012


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