The Emptiness in the Heart of All Things • 2018 • Magical reality novelette by Fábio Fernandes

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Synopsis: Anita investigates a series of murders in the sertão, in Northern Brazil. The victims were all male, leading her four thousand kilometers to a house were Elizabeth lives, an elderly author living for herself. 

he had a glorious mane of white hair which contrasted beautifully with the brownish tone of her sun-drenched face.
But Anita was raised Catholic, and she understood that not every monster was necessarily repulsive to the eye.

Elizabeth takes care of riberinhas – women living in wooden shacks who are often mistreated and raped by their husbands or fathers. She leads Anita on a day trip to the women so that she learns about their fate. 

Anita stays with Elizabeth for a few days to continue her interview. The nights are disturbing with strange sounds, and Elizabeth identifies one as the mythological “Matinta Perera”, a woman with a curse.

Review: The author weaves the Brazilian folklore into a crime plot involving feminist and political topics. All had a touch of exotic strangeness adding to the heat of the nearby rainforest. It remembered me of Lucius Shephard’s stories.

In the end, it was too predictable, too straightforward to last longer than the reading of the anthology. All the discussion about Camus and Western fiction might be interesting but distracted from the story’s flow. I could accept it in a novel, but it didn’t fit into this novelette.

Meta: isfdb. I’ve read it it in the anthology Best of World SF.

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