Francisco José Viegas (b. 1962) is a Portuguese writer of novels, poetry, and travel books who has also worked as a journalist and in publishing. In 2011, he was elected to the Portuguese parliament, the Assembly, and became the Culture Secretary in the Portuguese government. He is best known for his detective novels featuring the police inspectors Jaime Ramos and Filipe Castanheira. One of these, Longe de Manaus (2006), won the Grande Prémio de Romance e Novela awarded by the Portuguese Writers Association.
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Um céu demasiado azul (A Sky too Blue)
In Um céu demasiado azul, the third in his Ramos and Castanheira detective series, the body of a man is found in the boot of a car. It is his own car, and he has been shot. The man is João Alves Lopes, who worked for an advertising agency.
Jaime Ramos, a fifty-year-old police inspector in Oporto, is put onto the case. He is divorced, and enjoys a slightly arms-length relationship with Rosa, his upstairs neighbour. Coincidentally, his friend Filipe Castanheira, now based in the Azores, has been sent to Portugal on a short training course. Together, although by separate routes, they piece together what happened to Lopes.
Lopes’ last night was spent with two striptease artistes – Miss Kitty and Miss Starck. Miss Kitty’s real name is Amélia and she, too, has disappeared. Luísa (Miss Starck) tells Jaime that Amélia was always letting her down and assumes that her disappearance was to do with a man, possibly the man they ended up with that night, Lopes. Before that, Lopes had spent a holiday in Mexico and, unexpectedly, had decided to go to Cuba as well. Jaime visits both countries and establishes that, on both occasions, Lopes had been seen in the company of a very pretty woman. He had also made several phone calls to Portugal – to the travel agent and to a number in Oporto: Amélia’s number.
Much of the enjoyment as the novel develops comes from the complex mesh of relationships and a strong sense of place, in this case Oporto, Cuba and Mexico. The different characters of the two detectives are also key to the book. It is clear that this a literary novel as well as a genre novel. Unexpected things happen. For example, in the sample translation time is dedicated to Jaime Ramos’ long-postponed spring-cleaning.