Author: T. R. Connolly
Genre: Contemporary fiction / Murder mystery
This short novel tells the story of Chunk DeLuna, an orphan in Brazil who carves out a criminal empire built on drugs, prostitution, gambling, and corruption. Along the way, the novel also shares the struggles of Suzanne and Lupe, the two women who have shared DeLuna’s life, enduring his harsh ideas of love and happiness.
The story is very interpersonal and, at times, quite gruesome as it tells of the people DeLuna has threatened, blackmailed, or forced to do what he wants. Most of the time, the focus is on how DeLuna expands his realm rather than the day-to-day practices, so readers get to experience the business side rather than the operations themselves.
The narration offers a wide array of experiences, from an assault on a rival drug-gang to a peaceful trip up the Amazon river. Lupe’s thread adds dimension and heart to the tale as she seeks to find true love and happiness through painting and discovering her native Brazilian heritage.
And then, the tale of the Olympics and World Cup soccer coming to Brazil whirls the story away. DeLuna is faced with an unparalleled opportunity for expansion, and he goes after it with his usual tenacity, driving the story and his business partners into the politics and machinations involved in deciding event locations and who gets to build the venues.
Not for the faint-of-heart, the narration is quite specific, accurate, and appalling. Through language and description, readers are given a clear understanding of DeLuna’s past and present, encompassing his own actions and those of his on-staff assassin and torturer, though the author steers clear of sexual or erotic details.
While one might pity DeLuna, one is hardly given the liberty to like him, as the story presents him with all his faults as well as his few virtues. Overall, the story’s spark is in discovering whether DeLuna will succeed or fail, and, similarly, whether Lupe and DeLuna’s other associates will find freedom from the man who has dominated their lives.
In these respects, it is a bit of a page-turner as the future of everyone hangs in the balance, swinging from hope to grim reality and back again.
However, for a story set in colorful and vibrant Brazil, the setting and mood seemed a bit flat. There are glimpses of the surroundings in certain places, especially the slower moments of the plot, but most of the time, the descriptions are left out, skipped over in favor of dialogue and action.
Still, it’s an exciting tale, full of grim heartlessness and unstoppable greed. A few murders occur, but the only mysterious one is at the end of the story, so this tale falls more under contemporary and criminal fiction than murder mystery.
DeLuna’s rise to power, his corporate actions, and personal life are so believable that one feels as though they might’ve actually occurred. A satisfying story of success and downfall, greed and desire, hope and determination, this story will be welcomed by readers of criminal fiction and inter-relational thrillers.
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