The Simple Art of Killing a Woman


Patrícia Melo

Translated by Sophie Lewis
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Longlisted for the Prix Fémina 2023: Best Foreign Novel

From bestselling novelist Patrícia Melo comes a masterful thriller that is by turns poetic, inspiring, humorous and harrowing.

To escape an overprotective family and an abusive partner, a young lawyer accepts an assignment in the Amazonian border town of Cruzeiro do Sul. There, she meets Carla, a local prosecutor, and Marcos, the son of an indigenous woman, and learns about an epidemic of violence against women that seems beyond comprehension.

What she finds in the jungle is not only relentless oppression, but a deep longing for answers to an unsolved crime from her past. Through the ritual use of ayahuasca, she meets a chorus of warrior women on a path of revenge and recovers the painful details of her mother’s death.

The Simple Art of Killing a Woman is a psychological trip with a twist. It’s about the strength of individuals in the face of overwhelming violence, the problem of femicide in Brazil, and the haunting of a cold case.


‘A deeply affecting novel illuminating the costs of being a woman in a dangerous, misogynistic society.’
Kirkus Reviews

‘Patrícia Melo explodes the boundaries between two worlds with energy and colour. The Simple Art of Killing a Woman vibrates with rage at femicide and glows with hallucinatory images of jaguars and Amazons.’
— Martina Läubli, NZZ – Bücher am Sonntag

‘The Simple Art of Killing a Woman is Patrícia Melo’s blackest novel to date and her best, a formal and stylistic high point in her work. The protagonist finds a way out of powerlessness into a self-determined life. ‘Literature’, says Melo, ‘is a space for resistance’, especially in dark times. It is again more necessary than ever.’
— Dagmar Kaindl, Buchkultur

The Simple Art of Killing a Woman is set in an oppressive but at the same time paradisiacal environment. Melo describes the Amazon rainforest as an intensely sensual place. Her novel is also a declaration of love for the world of the Amazonian natives.’
— Victoria Eglau, Deutschlandfunk, Köln

‘Brazil has a problem with femicides. It often takes years for a court case to be initiated and a few years longer if the victim was poor, black or indigenous. Melo makes the fates of real victims visible in her latest novel. Her determination to pursue a certain style, the freedom with which she writes confidently around generic set pieces, is evident at first glance in the variable structure of her chapters. Melo puts words into a singing rhythm, arranges them in verse so that they unfold as poems.’
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

‘Patrícia Melo’s novel is a powerful plea against male violence, not a diatribe but a brilliantly composed piece of literature.’
 Marcus Müntefering, Der Freitag

‘Engaging and well-written, the book is the first of the author with a female protagonist. In addressing a sad reality, Patrícia wanted to blend the plot with a little fable. The Simple Art of Killing a Woman is a work of fiction that brushes with real events.’
 Ana Clara Brant, Jornal Estado de Minas

‘This is the subject of Patrícia Melo’s great new book . . . Based on real events in Cruzeiro do Sul, the lawyer investigates cases and hears testimonies of the tragic stories of women who have been piled into oblivion and impunity . . . The most striking thing is the metamorphosis of the protagonist, rational and modern, in her experience with the old indigenous women and their ancestral myths and spells, in visions of breathtaking beauty.’
 Nelson Motta, O Globo

‘It is literature inspired by life. It is fiction constructed within the pages of a book illustrating the real events that weigh every day on the pages of newspapers and news websites. It is a woman crying out for all the others. An urgent novel that instigates and denounces.’
 Jornal do Brasil

‘With writing that is direct and at the same time strong and poetic, the author turns into literature the reality reported in newspaper headlines that are often hard to believe. From judicial and legislative issues to the first sign of violence that, out of fear, is silenced. The doubts, the feeling of guilt, the discoveries and, after so many male voices in her works, the profusion of different female characters.’
Roberta Pinheiro, Correio Braziliense

Published: 18 April 2024
ISBN: 978-1911648758
Cover design: Sarah Schulte
Format:  B format paperback with flaps


About the author

Patrícia Melo was born in 1962 and is a highly regarded novelist, playwright and scriptwriter. She has been awarded a number of internationally renowned prizes, including the Jabuti Prize 2001, the German LiBeraturpreis 2013 and the German Crime Award 1998 and 2014, and she was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and Time Magazine included her among the Fifty Latin American Leaders of the New Millenium.

About the translator

Sophie Lewis is a London-based translator and editor. Working from Portuguese and French, she has translated Natalia Borges Polesso, João Gilberto Noll, Sheyla Smanioto, Victor Heringer, Stendhal, Jules Verne, Marcel Aymé, Josephine Baker, Violette Leduc, Leïla Slimani, Noémi Lefebvre, Mona Chollet and Colette Fellous, among others. With Gitanjali Patel, she co-founded the Shadow Heroes creative language workshops enterprise.

Lewis’s translations have been shortlisted for the Scott Moncrieff and Republic of Consciousness prizes, and longlisted for the International Booker Prize. She was joint winner of the 2022 French-American Foundation prize for non-fiction translation, for her translation of anthropologist Nastassja Martin’s book In the Eye of the Wild.

The Simple Art of Killing a Woman

Coming soon…

Ms. Magazine, 4 December 2023: December 2023 Reads for the Rest of Us

Kirkus Reviews, 22 September 2023: The Simple Art of Killing a Woman

Portuguese edition

US edition 

Arabic edition

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