The Silence of the Rain; December Heat; Southwesterly Wind; A Window in Copacabana; Pursuit
Recommended by a friend who rarely leads me astray, this mystery series featuring Inspector Espinosa is a treat of spare but vivid writing set in the lush environs of Rio de Janeiro. Espinosa has a literary and philosophical bent befitting his name as well as a sensual nature that emerges now and then. The characters are distinct and intriguing. Like many of his Scandinavian counterparts (such as Martin Beck, created by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, and Kurt Wallander, created by Henning Mankell), Espinosa seems to be mildly depressed most of the time, perhaps because of the pathetic diet of frozen pasta dinners he habitually consumes in the disarray of an apartment he never brings himself to put in order. Darkly comic, worldly wise, these mysteries have memorable moments of human connection and serenity. Their pace is quite deliberate, and Espinosa sometimes seems to turn over every rock on the shore, but they are well realized and engaging. Any of these will be a welcome escape from the January blizzards some of us endure.