Smaller and Smaller Circles (Soho Crime)
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This harrowing mystery, winner of the Philippine National Book Award, follows two Catholic priests on the hunt through Manila for a brutal serial killer
Payatas, a 50-acre dump northeast of Manila’s Quezon City, is home to thousands of people who live off of what they can scavenge there. It is one of the poorest neighborhoods in a city whose law enforcement is already stretched thin, devoid of forensic resources and rife with corruption. So when the eviscerated bodies of preteen boys begin to appear in the dump heaps, there is no one to seek justice on their behalf.
In the rainy summer of 1997, two Jesuit priests take the matter of protecting their flock into their own hands. Father Gus Saenz is a respected forensic anthropologist, one of the few in the Philippines, and has been tapped by the Director of the National Bureau of Investigations as a backup for police efforts. Together with his protégé, Father Jerome Lucero, a psychologist, Saenz dedicates himself to tracking down the monster preying on these impoverished boys.
Smaller and Smaller Circles, widely regarded as the first Filipino crime novel, is a poetic masterpiece of literary noir, a sensitive depiction of a time and place, and a fascinating story about the Catholic Church and its place in its devotees’ lives.
had been a trial lawyer, then embarked on a long and remarkably untarnished career in the judiciary. When that part of his life was over, he served on company boards, government panels, committees of inquiry, but always somehow failed to land the high-profile posts, the juicy appointments. That ended about eighteen months ago, when his predecessor stepped down in the midst of corruption charges. The president had plucked him then out of semiretirement and, in a confluence of gumption and good
better than nothing, right, Father?” Saenz stays in the shadows, listening. “When you killed the children—what did you use?” “A knife.” The lack of detail is telling, so Jerome presses him. “What kind of knife?” “A small one.” When Jerome says nothing, the young man tries once more to fill in the gap of silence. “I would offer them something—a soft drink, a cigarette, a snack. When they came with me, I would do it.” “What exactly did you do?” “I would . . .” He hesitates, and Jerome notes
be an idiot if I didn’t tell Arcinas to check on his background and his whereabouts last Saturday.” A frown creases the space between Jerome’s brows. “He doesn’t fit our killer’s profile—at least, not physically.” “No, he doesn’t.” Saenz shakes his head. “But that behavior just now? That wasn’t normal.” He begins punching out numbers on the phone. “And you know what? I would hate to be so attached to the profile that we won’t consider any other possibilities.” 29 Susan is rushing back to the
kitchen, and Jerome follows. Then they both begin opening drawers and cabinets once more. Plates, pots and pans, canned goods, a coffee maker. A strange smell—like old meat, old blood—permeating the room. In the cabinet under the sink, Jerome finds several pairs of black rubber rain boots. He calls out to Saenz, and he comes, bending forward to take a quick look over Jerome’s shoulder. “Let’s have the SOCO boys bag those.” Saenz straightens up and then notices the avocado-green
he knows we’re getting close.” Saenz studies Jerome’s face. “You all right?” “I’m good,” he replies, but Saenz can feel his profound disquiet when he asks, “We can stop here, right? And leave the rest to Valdes and Arcinas? There’s nothing more we can do for the boy.” The rats begin squealing at each other, restless to have their turn at the body. For some reason, this makes Saenz unspeakably angry. “Not for this boy, no.” He turns in the direction of the school. “But perhaps for the other