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Hornets' Nest by Edyr Augusto
Translated by Richard Bartlett;
Review by Don Metzler
Aflame Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780955233982
Date: 01 October 2007 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Fireworks illuminate the skies over the Amazonian city of Belem, as part of the festival for Our Lady of Nazareth. A family gathers in their high rise apartment to enjoy the festivities. As the fireworks begin, three gunmen enter the apartment. Under the cover of the noise and commotion from the festival outside, six people are murdered in cold blood--two of them young children.

In New York, the Brazilian boyfriend of an international pop music star vanishes. The only clue to his disappearance is a cryptic email that says he has "things to sort out".

Back in Belem, a reclusive accountant and part-time football referee named Valdomiro, unwittingly comes into possession of documents that seem to implicate the provincial governor in various illegal activities. Extortion, prostitution, and drug-smuggling are foremost among the allegations. Valdomiro is terrified by the implications of these documents, and only wishes to be rid of them as quickly as possible. But who can he trust to turn them over to?

A prominent local pimp, himself gay, is cornered in a steam bath, terrorized and brutally murdered, for no reason that anyone can fathom.

These are the opening scenes of Hornets' Nest, the latest book by Edyr Augusto, Brazilian journalist, playwright and novelist. It is a story that unfolds scene by scene and page by page in the style of a montage, and will grip the reader's attention from the very start. The reader is allowed to make his own connections between the sometimes confusing juxtaposition of scenes, which eventually begin to emerge as a coherent story. The violence is occasionally graphic, but is never gratuitous.

Hornets' Nest is a slim volume that does not read like a slim volume. Augusto's prose seems to compress time. His economy of words and thoughts is astounding. There is such a wealth of essential information contained within each paragraph and on each page, that the reader will frequently find himself pausing to catch his breath, and then sometimes skimming back to make certain that nothing of importance has been missed.

There are many ambiguities in the narrative. It is often unclear exactly who is speaking in dialogue. But where this would be a frustration for the reader with some authors, in Augusto's case it only serves to increase our concentration and heighten our awareness of the story as it develops.

The conclusion of Hornets' Nest seems to raise more questions than it answers. Who is ultimately in charge of what is going on in the Amazonian provinces of Brazil? The government, or the drug cartels? As Augusto is himself a journalist, one suspects that this is the very point he intended to make in writing this book. And he makes his point well.

The final page will leave the reader gasping, struggling for answers to the riddle of South American politics. I can recommend Hornets' Nest to any lover of suspense fiction, to anyone who admires a unique prose style, and to any admirer of political intrigue.

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