Friday, March 13, 2015

Review of The Few by Nadia Dalbuono (Scribe, 2014)

Detective Leone Scamarcio is the black sheep of his mafia family having joined the Rome police force and become a detective.  Not long after another argument, his boss confronts Scamarcio not to repair bridges but to ask him to secretly investigate on behalf of the prime minister the death of a rent boy who was photographed frolicking with a senior politician.  So far the scandal has been kept out of the media, but it’s only a matter time before the story breaks.  At first the case is baffling, with two other young men perishing and a fellow cop left fighting for his life, but then Scamarcio is pointed towards the island of Elba, where a young American girl has been abducted from a beach, traumatising her parents.  The local cops are not happy at having Scarmarcio interfering with their investigation, especially since he quickly identifies flaws in their approach, but he gradually makes progress.  The problem is that all the leads point to an even greater political and criminal scandal.

Set in the city of Rome and the island of Elba, Nadia Dalbuono’s debut novel mixes police procedural with political thriller. The central character is Leone Scamarcio, a loner who is an outsider within the police force given his family’s mafia connections, who also has a mild anger management problem being unafraid to let his boss know exactly what he thinks of a poor decision or action.  The plot involves Scamarcio covertly investigating a sexual scandal involving a senior politician that has become a murder case.  The start of the story felt a little clunky, both in terms of its plotting and telling, but becomes more assured as it progresses, especially when the tale moves to Elba.  Here, there is more of a sense of place and better framing and contextualisation.  However, on return to Rome it becomes a little fanciful again and the twist in the resolution felt weak and unlikely.  Nevertheless, Scamarcio is an appealing character and the story rattles along, hooking the reader in, and there is plenty of intrigue and tension.  Overall, an entertaining read that shows promise as the start of a new series.   

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