Paradise City by Joe Thomas
(Arcadia, 2017)

Paradise City

by Joe Thomas

Mario Leme is a low-ranking detective in the São Paolo police. Every day on the way to work he sets off early and drives through the favela known as Paraisópolis. It’s a pilgrimage: his wife Renata was gunned down at an intersection here a year ago, the victim of a bala perdida – a stray bullet – in a conflict between drug dealers.

One morning, sitting in a queue of traffic at the same intersection, he sees an SUV careen out of control and flip over. Like a lot of luxury cars in São Paulo, its bullet-proof windows make it very difficult for anyone to get inside. By the time the military police on the scene cut the driver loose, he’s dead.

Two deaths, in a part of São Paulo where violent death is a daily occurrence. But Mario discovers that the driver, a rich kid from another part of the city, should never have been in Paraisópolis in the first place. The more he looks, the less it seems like an accident. The thread Mario’s following unravels until everything in the city starts to feel connected: the redevelopment of the favela, a rash of carjackings and murders, a vast citywide property scam, and corruption at the highest level of the city’s political class.

Perhaps Renata’s death wasn’t an accident either.

Epic in scale, utterly convincing in its sense of place, this is a pitch-black, brutal crime novel in the tradition of David Peace and James Ellroy. It is the first in a projected series featuring detective Mario Leme.


Paradise City is an exciting, dark and trenchant thriller, exposing the dark underbelly of Sao Paolo where money, politics and murder meet. Fresh, gripping and incredibly assured, Joe Thomas will be a name to watch in crime fiction.”
- Stav Sherez, author of The Devil's Playground