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Mystery set in Naples

10th November 2016

Darkness for the Bastards of Pizzofalcone by Maurizio de Giovanni (translated by Antony Shugaar) – mystery set in Naples.

mystery set in naples

Darkness for the Bastards of Pizzofalcone is the follow on to The Bastards of Pizzofalcone. It has largely the same cast of actors… a group of police misfits and failures who are drafted into the Pizzofalcone precinct office in Naples to replace the former incumbents who were fired for corruption… They are a very mixed (but actually quite lovable) bunch…

A young boy, Dodo, is kidnapped and held for ransom. His grandfather is a very rich and reclusive businessman. His mother Eva (the grandfather’s daughter) is divorced from the boy’s father, and living with her new boyfriend. There is also the grandfather’s live in secretary and housekeeper. Not much love is lost between any of them… A police team, Romano and Aragona, from the precinct, investigate and the kidnap moves over the pages to an exciting – perhaps predictable, perhaps not – denouement.

The kidnap is the main plot, but there are subplots aplenty. Another rich businessman is clumsily burgled, and the police suspect an inside job. Could this possibly tie in in some way with the kidnap? And one of the detectives, is obsessed by the thought – somewhat mocked by the others – that a spate of apparent suicides by old and desperate people are in fact murders. He gets close to the killer (without knowing it).

And there are personal stories too. The daughter of Lojacono, one of the detectives, leaves her mother in Sicily – and moves in with him in Naples (thus cramping his style with Laura Piras, an investigating magistrate). Palma, the Commissario in charge of Pizzofalcone, stalks one of the married female detectives. And another of the detectives, Alex, is embarking on a lesbian affair with the head of the police forensic department…

I found the book a little ‘confusing’ in style, but actually very good. It is a mixture of light and dark (and is actually published in a World Noir series). The police characters are flawed, lovable, and believable – you cannot but take to them. But the story of what happens to the kidnapped boy is pretty dark and foreboding – as are the actions and thoughts of the kidnappers. It has a sort of neat Agatha Christie feel to it – but I suspect that is pretty deceptive.

In TripFiction terms, Naples comes through loud and clear in the story. From the upmarket apartment blocks, through to the less salubrious parts of the city, via the restaurants and small shops that are so integral. It is a vibrant place.

Darkness for the Bastards of Pizzofalcone is a well written (and very well translated) read. One that I would recommend. Lots of loose ends are left – so I would imagine a third book in the series will follow!

Tony for the TripFiction team

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