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Thriller set in Naples (a real page turner…)

5th June 2016

The Bastards of Pizzofalcone by Maurizio de Giovanni (translated by Antony Shugaar) – thriller set in Naples.

The Bastards of Pizzofalcone is a page-turning thriller – very firmly set in modern day Naples. A city that is corrupt and crime filled… but still remarkably lovable. The book captures the atmosphere from the back street restaurants to the slums – all set against the seemingly incessant rain and the blowing of sea water onto the land.

thriller set in naplesThe Pizzofalcone precinct police office has a complete new personnel base – and is very much ‘on probation’. The previous incumbents were all cleared out after a major corruption scandal. The new squad is a very curious mix of misfits – all moved from their existing roles to Pizzofalcone because of assorted misconduct and misunderstandings. A kind of punishment detail… heading for a place where no one wishes to be. One is trigger happy, one has an uncontrollable right hand that lashes out at anybody – you get the idea. Yet, somehow, Commissario Palma manages to make a crime fighting force out of them. Detective Lojacono is the brightest spark – an intuitive detective who has fallen out with his superiors.

A brutal murder happens on their patch, and Lojacono leads the investigations. The rich charity-focussed wife of a very successful lawyer is killed in her apartment – the weapon is a snow globe (you know where you turn it upside down and shake the fake snow onto the scene). The victim has something of a fetish for collecting such items… Her husband (away on a weekend with his mistress and no witnesses) is the obvious key suspect.

The story is cleverly crafted and leads to a denouement that is both surprising and – if you follow the clues, which I went back to with hindsight after I had read the book – also quite believable. A nice and precisely woven plot… The relationships between Lojacono and his partner, Aragona, and the investigating magistrate, Laura Piras, are well drawn and work well at the human level. There is a good feel to the book.

The Bastards of Pizzofalcone is the ninth Naples mystery written by De Giovanni. Seven of them are in the acclaimed and very successful Commissario Ricciardi series – two (including Bastards) are stand alone. This is the first I have read but, hopefully, not the last… They all, I am told, really bring Naples to life.

I have just one quite minor quibble with the publishers and publicists. The book is described as ‘noir’ – but this is not the adjective that I would use. It has become somewhat overworked since the Scandinavian successes in the genre. ‘Noir’ has (oddly) to be really black and brutal – it is intended to shock. The Bastards of Pizzofalcone is a really good and exciting read – but ‘noir’ it is not.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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For more top reads set in NAPLES, just click here

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