cover image Bay of All Saints and Every Conceivable Sin

Bay of All Saints and Every Conceivable Sin

Ana Maria Miranda. Viking Books, $21 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-670-83455-6

An absorbing tale of murder, intrigue and revenge, this debut historical novel depicts Brazil under Portuguese colonial rule as a hotbed of vice, corruption and misery. Set in 1683 in teeming Bahia, Brazil's former capital, it celebrates two actual figures: satirical poet Gregorio de Matos, whose bawdy lampoons attacked hypocrisy and immoral behavior; and Jesuit preacher Padre Antonio Vieira, who fearlessly advocated tolerance of Jews, abolition of the Inquisition and Indians' rights. When Bahia's corrupt captain-general is assassinated, the conspirators--one of whom is Vieira's nephew--seek refuge in the Jesuit college. As suspects are hunted down, jailed, tortured and murdered, rival factions jockey for power. Meanwhile, Gregorio debauches in brothels and falls hopelessly in love with Maria Berco, a virtuous housemaid who's married to a blind old miser. In sensuous prose Miranda skillfully recreates the festering, byzantine regime of colonial Brazil, the pain of its Jewish community and the precarious existence of the masses. (Mar.)