The Club of Angels: Luis Fernando Verissimo, translated by Margaret Jull Costa

The Club of Angels is a short and witty novel revolving around the Beef Stew Club, a dinner group comprised of ten well-to-do Brazilian slackers who have been meeting monthly for twenty years to decadently devour extravagant gourmet meals.

After Ramos, the club’s heart and soul, dies of AIDS, a mysterious stranger named Lucindo arrives to cook each member’s favorite meal. Death follows for a member, one by one, month by month, but the mystery remains whether death is from poison or natural causes. Verissimo supplies some cleverness with quotations from Shakespeare, spices the mystery with the myth of the poisonous Japanese fugu fish (death follows if it is not cooked properly), and sidetracks the plot with his tales of lesbian Siamese twins. The prose is purposely arch and the characters an indistinguishable jumble until mid-way when only a few members remain and the pleasure of discovering the underlying reason for the deaths turns the implausible plot into a page-turner you can’t put down. Other reviewers have championed this short work as an examination of gluttony or an assessment of the phenomenon of a knowing death, but I found it a rich and satisfying diversion to recommend to any mystery lover.

The Club of Angels
Luis Fernando Verissimo, translated by Margaret Jull Costa
New Directions / $12.95
ISBN-13: 978-0811217552
Paper, 135 pages