Peter Robb is the author of Midnight in Sicily and M, his book about Caravaggio. He has won many prizes and his books are published in many languages around the world.Please note that in September we published a new edition of Midnight in Sicily.
The motivation for Robb's latest work is unclear; perhaps he was in pursuit of a story as absorbing and darkly disturbing as his Midnight in Sicily, which he certainly found. Robb left Naples for Brazil's northeastern territory of Pernambuco, where he restricted his travels to the towns of Recife, Maceio, and Palmares, a viper's triangle of Brazil's corrupt ruling elite and home of Fernando Collor de Mello, who in 1990 became Brazil's first democratically elected president in 29 years (he would resign two years later over charges of corruption). Using this historic event as a touchstone, Robb weaves a narrative consisting of three threads: a montage of historical flashbacks of the region; an account of his investigations of government deceit, chicanery, and murder from 1989 to the recent election of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ("Lula"); and a description of his travels and encounters. What the reader discovers is that the book's title is intentionally disingenuous-there have been thousands of deaths in Brazil over the years, beginning with the massacre of indigenous tribes and resistance groups to the current "disappearance" of political dissenters and street urchins. Robb's revelations of political nepotism, intrigue, and passion read like a horribly real soap opera. Recommended for all libraries.-Lonnie Weatherby, McLennan Lib., McGill Univ., Montreal Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The death of the title refers to a recent event, but Times Literary Supplement writer Robb gets his mysterious subtitle most directly from Machado de Assis, a 19th-century Brazilian novelist considered at length for his ability to weave discussion of the nation's racial and economic disparities into his wildly popular serial fictions for women's magazines. The term's origins, however, are biblical; First and Second Chronicles were called "Omissions" because they contained information left out of the preceding Books of Kings. Although Robb tries to fill in some of the gaps in recent Brazilian history, he doesn't so much uncover new data on the spectacularly corrupt 1990-1992 presidency of Fernando Collor as pull together some of the many disparate sources. Collor's rise and fall, and the murder of his chief henchman, form a solid backbone for the book, but one from which Robb frequently wanders to ruminate on centuries of Brazilian history filled with eroticism and violent upheaval. He also recounts his own travels through modern Brazil, devoting as much attention to the sensual delights of buchada de bode (stuffed goat's stomach) as he does to a threatening encounter with the military police. The overall result is a bit of a jumble, but it's a delightful jumble: a Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with a Latin beat. At various points, Robb compares the unfolding Collor scandal to the soap opera staples of Brazilian television, and he's managed to capture the story's lurid surrealism with a deft, erudite touch. Agent, the Wylie Agency. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.