Speaking with Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, author of A Window in Copacabana, the fourth book in the acclaimed Inspector Espinosa series
You had a long and distinguished academic career in psychology and philosophy, but eight years ago decided to try something entirely new. What inspired you to become a mystery writer? How has your training as a psychologist helped in your crime writing?
I am attracted first of all, to the freedom that fictional narrative offers compared to the rigid conceptual structure of the scientific discourse; secondly, to the fact that mystery novels are the direct descendants of mythological thought (and ancient Greek poetry), and bring to the center of the narrative the most intense and fundamental questions of the human being: death and sexuality. These are also the main concerns of psychoanalysis, one of the two areas of my academic research.
Much in the same way that Raymond Chandler evoked the spirit and eccentricities of Los Angeles in his books, Rio de Janeiro is an important character in your mysteries. Why do you set the novels in Rio? What does it offer you as a writer?
I was born in Rio de Janeiro and I’ve always lived there (more precisely, in Copacabana). Rio is not only one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but a city with a complex political structure and dramatic social-economic conflicts. Rio is seductive and sweet like a woman, but it can be as threatening as the moment that precedes a revolt.
The main protagonist of your books, Inspector Espinosa, is much more than a conventional hero; he has the mind of a philosopher and the heart of a romantic. How did you create such a unique lead character?
To me, the main characteristic of Espinosa is that he is on the surface an ordinary man. He is not a hero, he is not always fighting against dangerous criminals, he doesn’t get all the beautiful blondes and brunettes that come cross his path. He is a public employee, a middle-aged person, a solitary man. He could be our neighbor. But at the same time, he has a critical mind and a romantic heart, he feels eccentric among his professional peers and out of place in the world. He is not so ordinary, in fact.
A Window in Copacabana is the fourth in the series featuring Espinosa. What's next for Espinosa?
Book five is currently called Perseguido (Pursued). A psychiatrist is under the impression that he is being followed by a patient; the feeling of being pursued increases day by day. One day this patient disappears and a few months later he is reported dead. Other deaths follow. In this plot, Espinosa tries to separate what is real and what is fantasy.
The book after that won’t feature Espinosa. I’m opening a parenthesis in the series to introduce a new character and a new point of view on the narrative. After that one, though, Espinosa will be back.
What do you hope your readers are left with when they finish an Inspector Espinosa mystery?
I hope that they are left with a question, which opens their minds to other perspectives of human behavior. A murder is not always a problem, or at least, not only a problem to be solved, but it can also be a mystery, which can contain the truth, but also maintain ambiguity. Because of this, I hope my readers are left with a vivid sensation of a story that isn’t completely final. The ending of the story itself is really determined by the reader, not by the writer. The writer provides only the words, and the richness of fictional text can be interpreted to have countless meanings. There is no one ending.
Who are your favorite mystery writers? Do you have a favorite novel?
Some of my favorite American mystery writers are Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich and Patricia Highsmith. My favorite novel is Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.