From Publishers Weekly
Hailed as the master of the Mediterranean noir, Carlotto (The Columbian Mule) misfires in this disjointed, pulpy tale of carnage and crime. Taking a break from his acclaimed Alligator detective series, the Italian writer introduces us to Giorgio Pellegrini, a left wing radical who fled Italy after orchestrating a bombing, and after a long stint as a Central American guerilla fighter, returns to Italy to avoid a prison sentence. Picked up by the Italian police and facing a life sentence for the bombing, Giorgio snitches on his former comrades and serves a little time before his release and speedy relapse into vice. He finds work at a strip joint and quickly forms an uneasy alliance with the crooked cop who arrested him. Their plan, to rob an armored truck, is a wild success that allows Giorgio to feign and murder his way up the social ladder. Carlotto writes from experience (he was a left-wing radical who spent time in prison in Italy and Mexico) and it shows in this gritty, hold-nothing-back take on crime and the scant value of loyalty. Unfortunately, it doesn't make a palatable plot. The story stumbles over rocky transitions and scenes of gratuitous brutality. While his approach to social chaos is intriguing, the grisly, superfluous violence is a pale substitute for the unique criminal philosophy Carlotto is known for.
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Perhaps the most difficult kind of noir novel to pull off is the crime tale narrated by a bad guy--not a crook with a heart of gold but somebody who does bad stuff for bad reasons. Europeans manage this trick much better than Americans, as Carlotto demonstrates here. Giorgio Pellegrino, a former left-wing terrorist, wants to return to Italy and is willing to do anything--including selling out his former friends--to do so. And, worse, he wants a shot at respectability even if it takes an armored-car holdup and numerous murders to make his dream possible. And, of course, he treats women brutally. No, there's nothing to like about Giorgio, yet we watch transfixed as he makes his climb from sewer to suburbs, one bloody rung at a time. The flat narration--just-the-facts-ma'am, without the Dragnet
morality--drips with irony as Giorgio announces, "I could finally be like everybody else." Carlotto is highly regarded in Italy, but his work has never received wide distribution here. That needs to change. Bill OttCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved