A Vine In The Blood by Leighton GageA Vine In The Blood by Leighton Gage

A Vine In The Blood

byLeighton Gage

Paperback | November 20, 2012

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It is the eve of the FIFA World Cup, the globe’s premier sporting event. The host country is Brazil. A victory for the home team is inextricably linked to the skills of the country’s principal striker, Tico “The Artist” Santos, the greatest player in the history of the sport. All the politicians in Brasilia, from the President of the Republic on down, have their seats squared-away for the finale, when they hope to see Argentina, Brazil’s bitterest rival, humbled by the Brazilian eleven. But then, just three weeks before the first game, Juraci Santos, Tico’s mother, is kidnapped. The star is distraught. The public is appalled. The politicians are outraged. And the pressure is on Chief Inspector Mario Silva to get her back.

Suspects aren’t lacking. Among them, are a cabal of Argentineans, suspected of having spirited the lady away to put Tico off his game, the star’s gold-digging, top-model girlfriend, whom his mother dislikes and has been trying to get out of his life, his principal rival, who wants to play in the World Cup in Tico’s place, and the man whose leg Tico broke during a match, thereby destroying his career. In the end, Silva and his crew discover that the solution to the mystery is less complex - but entirely unexpected.
Leighton Gage is the author of five novels in the Mario Silva series: Blood of the Wicked, Buried Strangers, Dying Gasp, Every Bitter Thing, and A Vine in the Blood. He spends part of each year in Santana do Parnaiba, Brazil, and divides the rest of the year between Florida and the Netherlands. He is married with four daughters.
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Title:A Vine In The BloodFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:320 pages, 7.5 × 5 × 0.83 inShipping dimensions:7.5 × 5 × 0.83 inPublished:November 20, 2012Publisher:Soho PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1616951729

ISBN - 13:9781616951726

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Chapter OneLess than an hour after Juraci Santos was unceremoniouslydumped into the back seat of her kidnappers’ getawaycar, Luca Vaz crept through her front gate and poisoned herbougainvilleas.The way he figured it, he didn’t have a choice. And itwasn’t his fault. It was the fault of that lying lowlife, MateoLima.“You’re sure about the color of these bougainvilleas?”Juraci had asked when he was planting them.“I’m sure, Senhora,” he’d assured her. “Blood red, like youtold me.”“Guaranteed?”“Guaranteed, Senhora.”“All right, Luca. But you’d better be right. Because, if theyflower in any other color. . . .”She left the threat unspecified. But a threat it was—andhe knew it.Three weeks later, the roof fell in: Luca learned that thosenew plants of hers were about to flower in a color his wife,Amanda, had described as the palest purple I’ve ever seen on abougainvillea. If Juraci Santos, a woman known to be as vindictiveas she was distrustful, discovered the truth, he’d be inbig trouble.Luca’s advance notice of the situation stemmed from thefact that he’d swiped one of the cuttings and planted it tothe right of his front door. Unlike the bougainvilleas alongJuraci’s wall, it had been standing in strong sunshine for thelast three weeks and Amanda, with her sharp eyes, had spottedthe first little bud. She’d taken him by the arm, led himover to the plant and pointed.“Isn’t this bougainvillea supposed to be red?”“It’s not red?” he asked with a sense of foreboding.He wouldn’t have known if she hadn’t told him. Lucawasn’t just color blind; he suffered from the most severe andrarest form of the malady: achromatopsia. He saw the worldin black, white and shades of gray.Six people in the world, and only six, knew about his condition.Unfortunately, one of them was Amanda’s no-goodbrother, Mateo, who owned a flower and shrub business, andwhom Luca blamed for his current troubles.The truth of the matter was that Mateo Lima was a nastyson of a bitch, and there weren’t many people in Carapicuiba,or the surrounding communities either, who were willing tobuy flowers and shrubs from the likes of him.Nor were there many people willing to hire a guy who wascolor blind to care for their flowers.So there they were, Luca and Mateo, stuck with each other.The survival of Mateo’s flower and shrub nursery dependedupon Luca’s work as a gardener. And Luca’s continuedemployment depended on Mateo keeping his mouth shutabout Luca’s condition, which Mateo, the blackmailingbastard, had made clear he’d do only if he became Luca’sexclusive supplier.It was remotely possible, of course, that Mateo had madean honest mistake about those supposedly blood-red bougainvilleas.But Luca didn’t think so. The most likely possibilitywas that Mateo was trying to pull a fast one becausehe had no blood-red bougainvilleas in stock.The other possibility was that Mateo had been having ajoke at Luca’s expense. He found color blindness funny.Either way, Mateo had underestimated the consequencesfor both of them. If Juraci saw those bougainvilleas floweringin pale purple, she’d have a fit. And then she’d shoot hermouth off to all of her neighbors. Luca would wind up losinghis customers; Mateo would be stuck with his flowers andshrubs, and both of them would soon be scratching to makea living. That was why the bougainvilleas had to go beforethey brought flowers into the world.Killing bougainvilleas, as any gardener will tell you, is atough proposition. The normal technique is to dig them outby the roots. Luca would have to be subtler than that. He’dhave to make it appear they’d fallen victims to some mysteriousblight.After giving the problem some thought, he decided onhis instrument of death: herbicide coupled with industrialstrengthbleach. He mixed up the concoction in a four-literjug, set his alarm clock for quarter to five in the morning, andby five-thirty on the day of the kidnapping he was creepingthrough Juraci’s gate. He missed encountering her abductors byabout fifty-five minutes, a fact that undoubtedly saved his life.He, like the kidnappers, had chosen his time with care.One of her maids had mentioned that Juraci was a night owl,and that she seldom retired before two or three in the morning.But Luca always smelled freshly-brewed coffee when hearrived, which was usually around 7:00, sometimes as earlyas 6:45. That led him to believe that the maids were up andabout by 6:30 at the latest.His plan was a simple one, and he was convinced he’d beable to pull it off without a hitch. The only imponderable wasthat yappy little poodle of Juraci’s, the one she called Twiggy.He prayed the dog would keep her mouth shut, because ifthe little bitch didn’t, she might wake up the big bitch, hermistress, and then Luca’s fat would be in the fire.He’d brought a flashlight, but, as it turned out, he didn’tneed it. The moonlight was bright enough to work by. Withgloved and practiced fingers, Luca dug down to expose theroots of each plant, severed them with his grafting knife,poured in a healthy dose of the poisonous liquid and packedthe earth back into place. With any kind of luck at all, theheat of the sun would cause the sap to rise, thereby drawingthe poison upward into the twigs and leaves.At quarter past six, after a celebratory cigarette, Lucabegan his normal workday. He went, first, to the shed at thefoot of the garden. From there, he took a plastic trash bagand started working his way up the slope toward the house.Juraci’s slovenly guests were in the habit of leaving papercups, paper plates, and gnawed-upon bones scattered aboutthe lawn after every barbecue—and she gave a lot of barbecues.It was one of his tasks to gather them up.6:30 passed, then 6:40 without a single sign of life fromthe house; no yappy little Twiggy running around the gardenpissing on the plants; no smell of coffee.At 6:45, curiosity and a craving for a café com leite gettingthe better of him, Luca decided to investigate. Up to thatpoint, he hadn’t been alarmed. But when he rounded thecorner and caught sight of the kitchen, he stopped dead inhis tracks.The door had been smashed—not just forced open, butcompletely destroyed. Pieces of solid, varnished wood wereeverywhere, a few of them still hanging from the hinges.Burglars, he thought. And then: Already gone . . . or maybenot. He started moving again, more cautiously this time. Arat in the kitchen reacted to the sound of his footsteps byscuttling out of the door to take refuge under a nearby hedge.Luca had no fear of rats. He’d killed dozens in his time.He quickened his pace. From somewhere beyond the dimopening, he could hear the buzzing of flies. When he reachedthe doorway, he stopped again, letting his eyes adjust to thelight, getting his first glimpse of the situation inside.The flies, hundreds of them, had been attracted by a poolof liquid on the white tile floor. They were over it, around it,some were even in it, trapped, as if they’d landed on flypaper.A few survivors waved their wings, making futile efforts toescape.Luca, at first, saw the liquid as dark grey. But then, he caughta whiff of the steely smell, saw the two corpses from which itoozed to form a single pool, and realized it must be red.Blood red.Chapter TwoThe downpour menacing Brasilia for the past hourwas finally making good on its threat. Raindrops splashed onthe Director’s window panes. Mario Silva suppressed a sigh.He’d left his umbrella at home. He’d get soaked on the wayto the airport.“Let me have a closer look at that,” Nelson Sampaio said.He leaned over his desk to snatch the photo from his chiefinspector’s hand. Then he put on his gold-rimmed readingglasses and squinted at the headline.Artist’s Mother Abducted.He could have read it without the glasses. The typefacewas that big.In the photograph, Juraci Santos looked terrified. Herface was dirty, her hair unkempt; her upper body, as muchof it as could be seen in the shot, was clad in a dark greensweatshirt several sizes too small. She had been photographedholding up a late edition of that morning’s Cidadode São Paulo.Sampaio tossed the photo onto a pile of newspapers, allwith headlines echoing the one he’d been squinting at.“Proof of life, my ass,” he said. “These days they can fakeanything. Why diamonds?”“Cash is too bulky,” Silva said. “A bank transfer could betraced. Diamonds have universal value. It’s a good choice.”Sampaio took off his glasses and rubbed the indentationson the bridge of his nose. “How did those damned radiopeople get the news before we did?”“I don’t know.”“Where’s Arnaldo Nunes?”“In São Paulo, visiting family.”“Good! Saves us a plane ticket.” Sampaio, when he wasn’tflattering a superior, or planning the overthrow of an enemy,kept a sharp eye on expenses. “Pry him loose from his bloodyfamily. I need every available man, I need results fast. Timingis critical.”For once, Sampaio was right. Timing was critical.The felons who’d snatched the Artist’s mother couldhardly have picked a worse time to do it.The beginning of the FIFA World Cup was thirteen daysaway. The nation, as it did every four years, had gone footballcrazy. And, in the upcoming conflict, no player was morecrucial to Brazil’s success than the Artist.What Beethoven was to music, Rembrandt to painting,Tico “The Artist” Santos was to the art of futebol. He was thenew Pelé. Some alleged he was better than Pelé. With Ticoin form, his team was expected to go on to glory. With Ticodepressed and worried about the fate of his mother, Brazil rana grave risk of suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands ofthe country’s most bitter rival—Argentina.Even that wasn’t the worst of it. Brazil, the only country tohave won the Cup five times, was hosting the series for thefirst time in more than sixty years.Every important government official, from the Presidentof the Republic on down, had acquired tickets to the games.And every one of them had been looking forward to thegrand finale, where they’d rub elbows, mid-field, in the greatstadium of Maracanã, and watch Brazil crush the opposition.Opposition that would, according to the bookmakers inLondon, most likely be wearing the blue and white of theArgentinean national team.But now, the great elbow-rubbing fest had been throwninto jeopardy. A serious risk had arisen that Argentina mightrub dirt into Brazilian faces. And, indignity of indignities,that dirt might be Brazilian dirt.The task of finding the Artist’s mother had fallen to theBrazilian Federal Police. If Juraci Santos wasn’t quickly—andsafely—returned, there was no one more likely to be targetedby the witch hunt that would surely follow than the Directorin charge of that organization.Nelson Sampaio.“The Argentineans have a club in São Paulo,” he said, bitingone of his nails. “That’s as good a place as any to start.”Silva eyed him warily. “Start what?”“Interviewing Argentineans, of course. It’s a questionof cui bono. If Tico can’t do his stuff, who benefits? TheArgentineans! That could be it right there! That could bethe motive.”Wariness crystallized into disbelief, but Silva was careful tokeep his voice neutral.“You think a cabal of Argentineans snatched the Artist’smother?”“Makes sense, doesn’t it?”“Honestly, Director, I don’t think—”“Call Nunes. I don’t want him sitting around on hisass waiting for you to get there. I want him over at thatArgentinean club questioning suspects. Tell him that.”Silva suppressed a sigh. “I’ll tell him, Director.”Sampaio stabbed the photo with a forefinger. “Did thiscome by email?”Silva nodded.“We can trace emails, can’t we?”“Not in this case.”“Why the hell not?”“They used a free, web-based account and logged in throughan unsecured wireless link.”“Whatever the fuck that means.” Sampaio’s languagetended to get saltier when he was under pressure. “Have youbooked your flight?”Silva nodded and looked at his watch. “It leaves in fifty-fiveminutes.”“Get a move on then.” Sampaio took another bite of nail.“We’ll continue this conversation when I get there.”Silva raised an eyebrow. “You’re coming to São Paulo?”“Are you hard of hearing, Chief Inspector?”The Director loved to throw his weight around.Unfortunately for his subordinates, he generally threw it inthe wrong direction. Allowing him to go to São Paulo wouldhinder, not help, the investigation. Silva acted immediatelyto defuse the threat.“I’m sure Minister Pontes will be pleased with your personalinvolvement,” he said.Antonio Pontes, the Minister of Justice, was the government’sWitch Hunter-in-Chief.For a while, Sampaio didn’t reply.Silva knew what he was up to. He was turning it overin his head: Go to São Paulo and assume all responsibility, orstay in Brasilia and blame Mario Silva and his team in case offailure?For Sampaio, a political appointee and a political animal,it really wasn’t much of a choice. He did exactly what Silvaexpected him to do.“Damn,” he said, “I forgot about the corruption hearings.I’ll have to stay here. I could be called upon to testify.”There was not the least chance of Sampaio being calledupon to testify. The congressional corruption hearings weredead in the water. The politicians charged with conductingthem were stonewalling, some to protect their buddies, someto protect themselves.But Silva nodded, as if what the Director said made perfectsense.“Mind you,” Sampaio added, “You’ll be calling me withupdates at least twice a day.”“Of course,” Silva said.He had no intention of doing any such thing.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for A Vine in the Blood“Hard-hitting, atmospheric… Despite their social conscience and ambitious reach, there's nothing stiff or programmatic about Mr. Gage's lively, action-filled chronicles. They have finely sketched characters, vivid geographical detail and their own brutal sort of humor. The vast size of Brazil, with its great economic and topographic differences, affords a diversity of locales. Each book is a bit of adventure-travel, with Silva and crew often feeling like tourists within their own country. Yet the Silva investigations have all the step-by-step excitement of a world-class procedural series… The books' greatest appeal, though, is Silva. Even after five books and many glimpses into his past and present, he remains an enigma. The reader never knows what the detective might or might not do in order to balance the scales of justice.” —Wall Street Journal “Silva, a tough, compassionate cop with an alcoholic wife and an unerring instinct for working the system, tackles this highly spiced case with his usual aplomb. Rising above Brazilian brutality, corruption, and bribery with uncommon wit and the help of his colorful, appealing colleagues, he scores a winning goal in an enormously complex kidnap payoff scheme.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review“Gage knows Brazil well and has a cast of characters so amusing and so skillfully constructed that this novel is irresistible.” —Toronto Globe and Mail“A brisk, colorful police thriller with much interesting information about contemporary Brazil. As usual, the strong and disparate personalities of Silva's detectives add spice to their fifth case.” —Kirkus Reviews“This book, like all of the titles in Gage’s Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigations series, throws a spotlight on the society and politics of contemporary Brazil. A Vine in the Blood attests to that country’s intense involvement with the game of soccer…. Gage effectively increases the suspense of his latest work by creating a variety of characters, each with a valid motive for the crime.” —Examiner.com"With humorous banter and situations throughout, the plot becomes convoluted as Silva and his team believe the crime is relatively straightforward, but the press promotes theories that are more complicated and elaborate—more fitting to a national superstar. The pace of the story is steady and rhythmic."—The News-Gazette “Whether it's characterization, plot or setting, A Vine in the Blood is possibly the best book in this series. If you have yet to sample it, fear not. This book stands on its own very well. My personal recommendation would be to read the entire series. Each book is a window into a fascinating country.” —Crimespace“Mr. Gage is a master of the procedural who paints with a fine brush, using the tools he needs to craft a fine novel—and no more.” —New York Journal of Books “Leighton Gage’s skill is that he imparts a lot of information as an integral part of the exciting narrative, or the smart and frequently amusing dialogue between his characters. Everything flows along so smoothly that suddenly you have read 300 pages and are eagerly awaiting the next investigation. You can start with number five in the series as each of the stories is self contained, but if you do you will certainly want to go back and read the rest of this top quality crime fiction series.” —Crime Scraps Review  “Silva himself is something of a homebody, sticking to his familiar Sao Paolo turf, but that doesn’t stop Gage from conveying a strong sense of place and Brazilian culture…. an engaging and fast-paced mystery.” —Booklist“This is a fine series and one that readers would do well to seek out.” —Deadly Pleasures Mystery MagazineA Chicago Tribune Mystery Book Club “favorite.” “Enthralling…. The plotting is amazing; the finale will leave the reader a little stunned but the motivation is so true that it all makes sense.” —MysterEbook “The series offers a tour of the hemisphere’s largest and most populated country and a hint of its future…. a great stocking stuffer for the reader on your holiday list.”—The Big Thrill “When the final break comes, it's a perfectly believable insight rather than the strained coincidence that we sometimes see in crime fiction. All in all, the Silva series just gets better and better.” —International Noir Fiction