The Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme has safely (pshew!) arrived at our fifth stop – the letter E. Thanks as ever to our skilled tour guide Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise for a most interesting journey thus far. While everyone’s stopping for tea and ‘phoning home let me share my contribution for this stop – Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza’s Inspector Espinosa.
Inspector Espinosa lives and works in one of the most beautiful and potentially dangerous cities in the world: Rio de Janeiro. As the series begins, Espinosa works in the First Precinct, where the clientele is mostly
“…hookers, pickpockets, drunks and junkies – the small fry of the port’s underworld.”
as we learn in The Silence of the Rain. As the series goes on, Espinosa is promoted and moves to the more prestigious Twelfth Precinct.
It’s easy to see why Espinosa is promoted too. He is both determined and good at his job. What’s more, although it’s very risky, he is no respecter of money and privilege. In The Silence of the Rain, for instance, he looks into the shooting death of wealthy mining executive Richard Carvalho. At first it looks as though Carvalho was the victim of a thief, since his briefcase and wallet were missing. But as the case goes on it becomes all too clear that this might be something more. Espinosa is not afraid to go all the way to the proverbial top of the corporate tree to find out who would have wanted to kill the victim and why. And we see that theme reflected throughout this series.
Another appealing aspect of Espinosa’s character is that he takes his role as a police officer seriously. He doesn’t allow himself to be corrupted by bribes, drugs or power. In fact, this theme of going up against corruption is a thread throughout several novels. In A Window in Copacabana, for instance, Espinosa and his team investigate the murders of three police officers. At first, the killings look like the work of a crazed killer who’s out to murder police officers. But then, the mistress of one of the dead police officers is murdered. Then another dies. Now it becomes clear that Espinosa has uncovered a corruption scandal. He takes measures to keep himself and his team safe while they investigate their own, but he still puts himself at considerable risk as he looks for the killer.
Although Espinosa does have what you might call high moral standards when it comes to his work, he is also a pragmatist. He knows that cops are underpaid and he knows how difficult it is to bring down highly-placed criminals. He also understands that people can feel driven to commit crimes. That pragmatism gives him a sense of compassion, although you couldn’t really call him “soft on crime” either.
Espinosa may be pragmatic, but he is also somewhat of a philosopher. For instance, in Alone in the Crowd, he and his team look into the allegedly accidental death of Dona Laura Sales Ribeiro, who falls – or is pushed – under a bus just after she makes an unsuccessful attempt to meet with Espinosa. Espinosa traces her movements on the day she died and finds a connection between her death and another stop she made that day to a branch of the bank Caixa Econômica Federal. Her death is also tied in, ‘though not as directly, with Espinosa’s own past. In a sub-plot to his novel, Espinosa is involved in a relationship with Irene, a graphics designer who lives and works in São Paulo. He’s been asking himself questions about their relationship, although he has no desire to end it, nor does he think Irene wants to do so:
“Espinosa was thinking about these questions dizzily while he and Irene embraced and exchanged their first few words, even though he realized that what he was thinking was only his own point of view. What did Irene think about that?”
Although Espinosa does have a philosophical bent, that doesn’t mean he can’t act quickly when he has to do so.
Espinosa’s a bachelor, although he and Irene remain more or less consistently involved. Their relationship is interesting in that they respect each other, love to spend time together and so on. But neither makes any attempt to influence the other’s life, nor does either want to marry. And that’s another appealing aspect of Espinosa’s character. He certainly enjoys his relationships with women but he’s neither sexist nor exploitative. He sees the women he’s involved with not as conquests, but as simply people.
It’s also worth saying that Espinosa isn’t the all-too-stereotypical “tortured cop with personal demons.” He drinks socially, but doesn’t wallow in alcohol. He philosophises but doesn’t ruminate. He is sometimes unhappy as we all are but he’s not a morose character.
Although Espinosa is a dedicated cop, he also loves books and reading. He’s got a large collection of books, and one of the running jokes in this series is that he’s forever promising himself that he’ll do something about organising and arranging his books. It never really happens though. Still he loves the stories books tell and imagines that if he weren’t a cop he would love to own a bookshop. In fact that’s what he promises himself that he’ll do if he ever leaves the force. He even looks into whether there are any available shops from time to time. I can’t help it – there’s something about a fellow book-lover. 🙂
Another appealing aspect of Espinosa’s character is his loyalty to his team. He does his best to take care of the officers under his command. When they make mistakes as they sometimes do he doesn’t pillory them. He tries to protect them as best he can too. For instance, as the team investigates corruption in A Window in Copacabana, Espinosa realises that the officers working on this case could be in real danger. So he warns them of the danger right away. He also outlines rules for them for their own safety. No-one is to put anything about the case in writing, no-one is to discuss the case with anyone outside the team and then never while in the precinct, and so on. And he asks nothing of his team members that he’s not willing to do himself. Little wonder his team members are loyal to him too.
Espinosa is a likeable character who fits very well in his Rio de Janeiro surroundings. He’s a good cop who is at the same time idealistic and pragmatic. And what’s not to like about a guy who loves to read? 😉