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Patrícia Melo has a stripped-down, straightforward style, and she
pumps out words the way a gunman sprays bullets. With The Killer it’s as much like
watching a movie as reading a book.
By Bondo Wyszpolski

"Before we’re born, somebody, I don’t know who, God maybe, God defines exactly how
he’s going to fuck with our lives… God only thinks about people when he has to decide
how he’s going to destroy them. When he’s pressed for time, he comes up with a war or a
hurricane and kills them in droves, without having to give any thought at all. With me, he
gave it some thought."

Máiquel loses a soccer bet and dyes his hair blond. He’ll need a new wardrobe now, so
he goes shopping and hits up on the green salesgirl, Cledir. An acquaintance of his named
Suel comments on the new `gringo’ look and Máiquel takes offense. A minor incident gets
out of hand and Suel gets a bullet in the back, another in the head.

Nobody mourns the victim except his 15-year-old girlfriend, Érica. Meanwhile, Máiquel
is being lauded; you’d think he’d slain a dragon. When he goes to a dentist because of a
persistent toothache, Máiquel is told that he needs lots of dental work. Dr. Carvalho
says he’ll do it all for free if Máiquel knocks off the guy who raped his daughter.

Victim number two doesn’t seem like such a bad apple, but Máiquel accepts the offer,
botches but carries out the deed, and now he’s the biggest hot shot in town.

Having nowhere to go, Suel’s girlfriend Érica shows up and plants herself in
Máiquel’s house. In addition, Cledir reappears after being date-raped by Máiquel, and
she’s pregnant.

São Paulo author Patrícia Melo has a stripped-down, straightforward style, and she
pumps out words the way a gunman sprays bullets. The expression `cinematic’ is overused,
but with The Killer it’s as much like watching a movie as reading a book.

There are more offers from Dr. Carvalho and his cronies: they’re fed up with being
robbed, with the rampant crime in society that nobody’s doing anything about. But Máiquel
says no, or at least tries to. What he wants is to marry Cledir, be a dad, get a normal
job, and buy a house that’ll also have a room for Érica.

In the meantime, Máiquel remains a hired hand, knocking off petty thieves (many of
them poor black teenagers), his strings pulled by scared middle-class businessmen.

Máiquel reminds this reader of the anti-heroes in the writings of Oswaldo França,
Júnior (The Long Haul; The Man in the Monkey Suit), J.G. Noll (Hotel Atlântico),
and even Rubem Fonseca (Vast Emotions and Imperfect Thoughts), whose characters
drift, ramble, and are so often buffeted by the vagaries of fate.

Although it’s hard to imagine the São Paulo Chamber of Commerce sending copies to
potential visitors, The Killer is a heady, exhilarating ride that doesn’t run out
of steam. Sure, its direct punch and frank brutality will not be everyone’s cup of tea,
but those who pick up the book will learn one thing pretty quick: Melo delivers.

 Excerpt:

In the distance, I saw the scene. The prisoner’s hands and feet were tied, his pants
around his ankles. I’m going to give you a plate of shit, Zé Galinha said, if you eat it,
you go free. It wasn’t the first time Zé Galinha had dreamed up such things. I walked
faster. Enoque was holding the plate with the sack of shit, it’s all here, he told Zé
Galinha.

I quickly untied Conan’s hands. What’s the deal, Máiquel, let me finish my work. He’s
going to eat shit with a spoon, Máiquel, and you’re going to let me do it.

Nobody’s eating shit, I said. Put your clothes on, I told Conan. Conan was trembling so
much he couldn’t even get his pants on. I helped him, fastened his belt. Zé Galinha
wouldn’t stop talking, goddamn right he’s going to eat shit, Zé Galinha said, he’s going
to, he’s going to do it, I didn’t set up this circus for nothing, I didn’t shit in that
plastic bag for fun, that son of a bitch is going to eat shit, yessir, he sure as hell is.
I grabbed the plate out of Zé Galinha’s hands and threw it as far as I could, what’s
wrong, Máiquel? Just look, you got shit on my shoes, he said, you got my pants dirty with
shit, man. What’s the matter, you feel bad for Conan? Is that what it is? I’ve had it up
to here with you man, what’re you thinking, who you think you are, man? You’re a piece of
shit, that’s what you are. A piece of shit, he said. I took out the gun and fired, hit him
in the head. Zé Galinha fell dead.

Marcão and Enoque avoided looking at me.

Conan was trembling, thank you, he said. Conan also avoided looking me in the eye. He
was looking at my shoes, as if God were there, my shoe with its little gold chain. I shot
Conan three times in the head.

 

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The Killer
218 pp

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