A mesmerising, hypnotic story steeped in mystery, which uses football as an entry point into a many-layered story of lost origins and the power of belief. The disappearance of a young football star leads journalist Paul Faustino deep into the jungle wilds, retracing the steps of African slaves brought there centuries before. At the mercy of others, far from civilization, this skeptical and cynical man will be shaken to the core, forced to question what he really believes. Sensually evoking the steamy heat and bubbling tensions of its setting, Mal Peet has crafted a rich and sometimes disturbing look at the occult lore that still exists at the roots of Brazilian culture. Though the book starts in a fictional city, it has close parallels with the Brazilian city of Salvador, with its history of slavery and rich Africanised culture. 'The Penalty' may refer to the price of forgetting the origins of slavery and the influence of the spiritual world. This book is like being in a trance from which you can't quite wake up - I've never read anything else even remotely like it. Highly recommended.