THE BODY FROM IPANEMA by J. R. Ripley
A TONY KOZOL MYSTERY
Long Wind Publishing, 2002
Musician Tony Kozol is in Brazil for a concert when one of the band leader's gofers introduces him to Rio's criminal underworld. Deep in Rio's favellas, Tony learns that sometimes going along is the only way to stay alive. Still, life is mostly good--he has fallen in love with a beautiful woman, had a paying job, and Rio is in full carnival mode, with some of the world's most beautiful women on full display.
Then the entire thing falls apart. His boss seems to lose faith in him, the gangsters are putting pressure on him to support them in a major heist, and his girlfriend seems to have a powerful boyfriend who wants to see Tony out of the way no matter what it takes. Tony, along with his friend and sidekick Rock Bottom, will have to move fast to stay ahead of the wave of disaster bearing down on them.
Author J. R. Ripley does a convincing job portraying Rio de Janeiro in high carnival season. The samba beat, the contrasts of extreme wealth and abject poverty, and the curious position of law enforcement (being sometimes more dangerous than the people they are supposed to protect against) all ring true. The mystery itself is less convincing. When Brazil's Federal Police finally ask Tony and Rock for their assistance, one can only wonder why--it certainly isn't explained, nor does it make a great deal of sense. As a mystery reader, I also expect to learn all the clues that the point of view protagonist learns. In THE BODY FROM IPANEMA, a key clue was withheld from the reader but not from Tony, making the mystery perhaps more interesting from the reader's perspective, but fundamentally cheating on the implicit contract between author and reader.
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