Fletch's trip to Brazil wasn't exactly planned. But it's Carnival time in Rio and he has plenty of money, thanks to a little arrangement made stateside. And it took him no time to hook up with the luscious Laura Soares. Fletch is beginning to relax, just a little.
But between the American widow who seems to be following Fletch and the Brazilian widow who's fingered Fletch as her long-dead husband, he suddenly doesn't have much time to enjoy the present or even get a wink of sleep.
A thirty-year-old unsolved murder, a more recent suicide, an inconvenient heart attack-somehow Fletch is connected to all of them and one of those connections might just shorten his own life. From Rio to Bahia and back again, at the height of Carnival, Fletch has to keep moving or get stopped cold.
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October 07, 2002
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Excerpt from Carioca Fletch by Gregory Mcdonald
One Naturally the samba drums were beating, rhythms beside rhythms on top of rhythms beneath rhythms. Especially just before Carnival did this modern city of nine million people on the South Atlantic reverberate with the ever-quickening rhythms of the drums. From all sides, every minute, day and night, came the beating of the drums. "You cannot understand the future of the world without first understanding Brazil." That was the way the trim, forty-year-old Brazilian novelist Marilia Diniz spoke. Informative. Instinctual. Indicative. The umbrella over the cafe table on Avenida Atlantica shaded her eyes, leaving her mouth in the afternoon sunlight. She shrugged her thin shoulders. "Unfortunately, Brazil is beyond anyone's understanding." Marilia sat across from Fletch in a light dress with only straps over her pale shoulders. Marilia Diniz was the rare carioca who never went to the beach. Laura Soares, more appropriately dressed in shorts, sandals, a halter, more appropriately tanned golden brown, sat to Fletch's right. Laura would always go to the beach. Fletch was dressed in the uniform he had learned to be innocent, egalitarian: shorts and sneakers. In front of Marilia and Laura were glasses of beer, chope. Fletch had the drink he liked best in all the world: guarana. "Now that Fletch sees the Praia de Copacabana he will never go anywhere else," Laura said. "Maybe I will never even be able to get him to come back to Bahia." "I'll go back to Bahia anytime," Fletch said. "If your father lets me." "He'll embrace you. You know that." "I don't know." "The first truth about Brazil," Marilia said, "is its absolute tolerance." "Does Brazil tolerate intolerance?" "I suppose so." Marilia wrinkled her nose. "You see, you cannot understand." Across the avenida stretched the huge, dazzling Copacabana Beach, from the Morro do Leme to his left, to the peninsula separating Copacabana from the beaches of Arpoador, Ipanema and Leblon to his right. On the beach, among the brightly colored umbrellas and blankets, were thousands of golden brown bodies, all ages, sexes, their swimsuits so small on them only their skin, really, was visible, exercising, taking turns at the provided chin-up bars, reclining on sit-up boards, running. Within sight on the beach, Fletch counted fourteen soccer games in progress. Small children played at the water's edge, but most of the people in the water were doing disciplined swimming. Proportionately few on the beach were resting. The temperature was thirty-three degrees centigrade, about ninety degrees Fahrenheit; it was four o'clock in the afternoon, and the people's energy shimmered up from the sand more positively than reflected the strong sunlight. At street corners to the right and left of where they sat drummed samba bands. Boys, men, from fourteen years of age to whenever, beat on drums of various sizes, various tones as if this were their last chance to do so, ever. The band to the right wore canary yellow shorts; to the left, cardinal red shorts. Immediately around each band, pedestrians stayed to give in totally to the samba awhile, dancing on the sidewalk, up and down the curb, among the cars parked pridefully anywhere. One or two drummers might stop a moment to wipe the sweat from their chests, bellies, forearms, drink a chope to make more sweat, but a samba band itself never stops, when it moves, when it stays in one place. A samba band's stopping is as fatal a thought as your own heart's stopping. And the people passing on the sidewalk in front of the cafe, the pedestrians, going from corner to corner, band to band, businessmen dressed only in shorts and sandals, sometimes shirts, carrying briefcases, women in bikinis lugging bags of groceries, barefoot chil