Simply put, one of the best mysteries I've read this decade!
Why I love it
Smaller and Smaller Circles is a smart, sensitive thriller that breathes fresh air into the world of literary detection. Widely considered to be the first Filipino crime novel, it combines the forensics of a Patricia Cornwell novel, the criminal profiling savvy of Clarice Starling ('œYou don't want Hannibal Lecter inside your head.') and a couple of Jesuit priests out for justice. Simply put, this is one of the best mysteries I've read this decade!
It's summer in Manila in 1997. The gruesomely mutilated body of a young boy is uncovered in the dump on the outskirts of town. The police, overrun with corruption and not all that concerned with the death of one of the city's undesirable inhabitants, do not give much thought to the crime. They don't even care enough to notice the similarities to other recent killings.
So Father Gus Saenz, a humble forensic anthropologist, is recruited to help with the investigation. He enlists the help of his former student, Father Jerome Lucero, who is now a psychologist. Using their considerable brains and their government (not to mention holy) connections, the two priests embark on a citywide hunt for the murderer.
What I love most about the book, besides the compelling plot, is Father Gus and Father Jerome. Batacan has constructed two charming, compassionate characters who I won't soon forget. Their faith never wavers and they never fail to be kind, even when faced with unspeakable evil, and it is these unusual qualities that make them so endearing. Their gentle handling of the case brings a genuinely human aspect to the story.
Not to mention, their impressive skills of detection are great fun to follow! Their calm, cool nature (plus a lot of hard work) ultimately allows the truth to rise to the surface. This is a wonderful book, incredibly charming, despite the dark crimes. It even won the Filipino National Book Award! I hope that we hear more from Father Gus and Father Jerome very soon.
Royal Oak, MI
As a fan of crime thrillers, I loved this. It reads almost like a modern Umberto Eco, and the characters are believable and the drama broad. Batacan weaves her plots and subplots together masterfully.
Los Alamos, NM
WOW! I felt like I understood the Philippines better after reading this, but I was also hoping to read more about these characters who are fully-fleshed out and well-written on their own.
This was a great, fast paced, mystery. The characters were interesting and well developed. The setting of the Philippines was original and added a lot to the story.
This was such a perfect murder mystery. It had plenty of twists, it kept me on my toes, and the characters were funny and smart. Loved every second of it!
So so so good! Just my favorite kind of mystery, with a complex plot, corruption abound and detectives outside of the system.
So cool to read a mystery set in the Philippines, of which I know very little about - can't recommend this one enough.
Amazing, beautiful, heart-wrenching mystery. I devoured this book and savored every page. A must read.
Lake Forest Park, WA
Got so engrossed in this story- especially in the unique characters!
Fort Wayne, IN
So good! Unique story telling. Kept me intrigued.
Little Rock, AR
Overland Park, KS
West Palm Beach, FL