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A WINDOW IN COPACABANA by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza: Book Review

Copacabana. The word brings up pictures of a beautiful beach, bikini-clad bodies, and Brazil’s national drink, the caipirinha.  So where do police corruption and murder fit into this picture?

Inspector Espinoza, chief of the 12th precinct in the city, has seen three policemen, one in his own precinct, killed within a few days.  Strangely enough, there doesn’t seem to be a big effort on the part of their fellow officers to find the killer or killers.  Espinoza decides to form a small task force with three of his subordinates to look into the deaths further, but they are stymied by the lack of cooperation they’re receiving.  It’s obvious there’s a coverup going on, but why?

More investigation turns up the fact that all three men were married but had mistresses.  Each lived a double life, one at home with his wife and children, the others without them in a nearly empty apartment.  Plus each of their mistresses had her own apartment.  What were they hiding?

Then two of the policemen’s mistresses are murdered. Across the street from the third mistress’s apartment, a woman named Serena sees what she thinks is a third murder.  She sees a woman directly opposite her window arguing with someone, a purse flying out the widow, almost immediately followed by the woman’s body.    She’s sees a police car and an ambulance at the scene a few minutes later, but when she questions the building’s doorman the next morning, he tells a different tale.  The woman was alone, there was no purse, and the woman threw herself out of the window.  Case closed.

Upset at the differences between what she thinks she saw and what the doorman tells her, Serena tells the story to her husband, a high official in the government, but he tells her it’s her imagination getting the best of her.   And even if it happened the way she tells it, it’s not her business.  If the police are satisfied, that’s the end of it.

But Serena isn’t satisfied, so she calls Inspector Espinoza to tell him her story. And that leads to even more complications.

The reader has been led to believe that it was the third mistress who went out the window.  But, in fact, it was not.   The third mistress, Celeste, in a later  interview with the police acknowledges that she and the other women knew their lovers were taking “tips,” or bribes, to supplement their salaries.  She doesn’t know the details, but since she’s the only one of the mistresses alive, she’s sure she’s next on the killer’s list.  Then she disappears.

Garcia-Roza paints a picture of a city with a culture of corruption. It’s easy for murders, even of policemen, to be only superficially investigated, and as for their mistresses, who really cares?  Perhaps it’s easy for Espinoza to get so involved with his police work since his personal life is rather empty.  Married and divorced, with a son who lives with his mother in the United States, he has a relationship with a woman that seems to go no further than a night of sex when it’s convenient for both of them.   He’s a man who’s cold inside.

You can read more about Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza at this web site.