One of the reasons for the decline in the number of books that I’ve been reading over the last few months is the length of the ones I’ve managed to get through. The Strangler’s Honeymoon came to over 600 pages and Summertime All the Cats are Bored had 400. What’s shaping up to be my book of the year, I am Pilgrim was an eye watering 704 pages. It’s a big difference to the books that I devoured as a teenager which I could easily read in an afternoon. Even taking into account the pressures of teaching and other calls on my time, the days of reading a book in a couple of hours are long gone.
A quick look at my mountainous TBR pile revealed a dearth of books that are short in length. However, one that had been sitting ignored for over a year was Luis Fernando Verissimo’s The Spies. I’d read a good review of the book at the excellent blog, Winston’s Dad, so I was keen to give it a go. I was able to read it in two short bursts and it turned out to be far from my normal reading material.
The narrator, a disaffected reader for a small publisher in Brazil, spends his Mondays sending out rejection letters to the deserving and undeserving alike. When he receives the first few pages of a manuscript purportedly written by a young women who is going to commit suicide, his interest is piqued. He enlists the help of his disparate band of friends to track down the woman and rescue her from her brutal husband.
Verissimo is one of Brazil’s most popular contemporary writers. His book really defies genre boundaries but although I saw ‘comic noir’ attached to the description of this book. There is certainly something comic about the way the hapless group of spies attempt to infiltrate a small Brazilian community to track down the mysterious author of the manuscript ‘Ariadne’. There are references to the Greek myth of Dionysus as well as what is clearly an obsession of the author, football. It’s not a crime novel in the traditional sense but I enjoyed it and it was great to read something different. And short.
Thanks to MacLehose Press for my review copy.