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Book Review: Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

Reviewed by Krista McKeeth


A twisted young medical student kidnaps the girl of his dreams and embarks on a dark and delirious road trip across Brazil in the English-language debut of Brazil’s most celebrated young crime writer.
Teo Avelar is a loner. He lives with his paraplegic mother and her dog in Rio de Janeiro, he doesn’t have many friends, and the only time he feels honest human emotion is in the presence of his medical school cadaver—that is, until he meets Clarice. She’s almost his exact opposite: exotic, spontaneous, unafraid to speak her mind. An aspiring screenwriter, she’s working on a screenplay called Perfect Days about three friends who go on a road trip across Brazil in search of romance. Teo is obsessed. He begins to stalk her, first following her to her university, then to her home, and when she ultimately rejects him, he kidnaps her and they embark upon their very own twisted odyssey across Brazil, tracing the same route outlined in her screenplay. Through it all, Teo is certain that time is all he needs to prove to Clarice that they are made for each other, that time is all he needs to make her fall in love with him. But as the journey progresses, he digs himself deeper and deeper into a pit that he can’t get out of, stopping at nothing to ensure that no one gets in the way of their life together. Both tense and lurid, and brimming with suspense from the very first page, Perfect Days is a psychological thriller in the vein of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley—a chilling journey in the passenger seat with a psychopath, and the English language debut of one of Brazil’s most deliciously dark young writers.

After recently reading The Collector by John Fowles, it was easy to find similarities in the stories, for starters, the personality of the main characters and their victims.

The major difference between the two being Perfect Days is a road trip kidnapping. Teo has medical knowledge and what seems like a never ending supply of money, so is able to keep his victim Clarice sedated and stuffed into a suitcase for easier travel. It’s when she’s awake that the real story takes place.

Teo is in medical school and spends his extra time taking care of his wheel-chair bound mother. He has no friends and only leaves the house for school, but one night he is talked into going to a party where he meets Clarice.  Clarice is outgoing, speaks her mind and hates sitting still. She love exploring and meeting people, and takes her screenwriting very seriously. After much consideration I do not believe this story and others like it are  meant for the reader to try to relate to the characters. Perhaps you might find some things similar, but to fully understand what is happening should be just beyond your belief at all times.

The story is all told from Teo’s perspective, in a very straightforward manner e.g. this is what happened, and the reasons why. The story invites the reader to see what his thought processes were and how he made sense of every action he took. It is all done in a very calm manner. With a twist ending, the only thing I could help wonder about in the end, was what was on Clarice’s mind throughout the ordeal. We never get to see what she wrote about on her laptop. Perhaps that is a story for another book. I’m sure it would be just as interesting as Teo’s interpretation of events.