Frei Betto - Hotel Brasil (3 stars)

An occasionally laboured crime novel that will reward determined readers

Frei Betto - Hotel Brasil

(Bitter Lemon Press)

Fear and paranoia thrive in the hearts of guests at a dilapidated Rio de Janeiro hotel where the brutal murder of a resident, whose body has been decapitated and mutilated, is yet to be solved by the corrupt local police force. As the twisting plot unfolds further horrors are unearthed, all centred within ruminating Rio and its many murky inhabitants.

Excellently portraying the harsh reality of life in Brazil’s unforgiving capital, Hotel Brasil’s characters and their backstories are captivating, often feeling hyper-real and giving the novel a pleasing soap opera ambience. However, the number of characters in the novel is vast, causing the story to be spread too thinly and lose its impact in its most vital moments. The book is also structured awkwardly, comprising of headed mini-sections within chapters that are sometimes no longer than a paragraph, which offer little other than an obstruction to its flow.

Although Hotel Brasil can be a laboured read, its considerations on the spectrum of evil in man are absorbing and reward a determined reader.

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