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Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan

Smaller and Smaller Circles

by F.H. Batacan

Quick take

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.

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