by Nadia Dalbuono
Crime | Thriller | 356 Pages | Published by Scribe in 2014
This book was received from Scribe Publications as part of the Goodreads giveaway scheme in return for an honest review
Just when I was having Italian crime novel withdrawal symptoms – thank you Donna Leon – Nadia Dalbuono’s debut novel, The Few, comes along to send me spiralling into the murky underworld of murderers, drug pushers and human traffickers. As the bodies start to pile up, Detective Leone Scamarcio must navigate his way through mafiosi, corrupt politicians and drug lords to get to the root of the crime. With a shadowy past of his own, secrets will be spilled, blood will be shed and one question remains: can those above the law be brought to justice?
Detective Leone Scamarcio, the son of a former leading Mafioso, has turned his back on the family business, and has joined the Rome police force. He may be one of the last honest men in Italy.
But when Scamarcio is handed a file of extremely compromising photographs of high-ranking Italian government officials, and told to ‘deal with it’, he knows he’s in for trouble. And when a young man is found stabbed in his apartment in Rome and a little girl disappears on a beach in Elba, Scamarcio’s job gets a whole lot more complicated.
Worst of all, every lead seems to implicate the prime minister — a multi-media baron, and the most powerful man in Italy.
As the case spins out of control, and his own past catches up with him, Scamarcio must navigate the darkest currents of Italian society — only to find that nothing is as it seems, and that the price of truth may be higher than he can pay.
When a number of compromising photographs end up in police hands and a series of clues links the investigation to the abduction of a young child on Elba, Detective Leone Scamarcio soon finds himself entangled in a case far more complicated and infinitely more serious than he could have predicted. From Rome, to Naples and to the island of Elba, Scamarcio must navigate his way through a tide of corruption and dishonesty to solve a number of connected crimes and uncover the web of corruption which lies at the heart of Italian politics.
The Few is a darkly disturbing thriller which transports you into a world of sex workers, corrupt politicians and child traffickers, a world which is both horrifying and disturbingly real. Dalbuono writes with skill and detail and, as the investigation grows and the number of suspects lengthens, the plot twists and turns to create an intricately woven narrative. The complexity of the plot coupled with almost constant tension lend themselves to a highly sophisticated and wholly convincing novel.
The Few opens at a steady pace, gathering momentum as links and connections are uncovered which take Scamarcio from the heart of Rome to the beaches of Elba in an increasingly complicated investigation. Dalbuono captures both the romanticism and the gritty reality of Rome and Elba in an unobtrusive flow of description which finely balances the contradictory beauty of the country with its dark conspiratorial undercurrents. Whilst the narrative is always to the point and remains tense throughout, the short descriptive passages slot in seamlessly to lend depth and realism to the narrative.
Detective Leone Scamarcio is a convincing and likeable character. He is a man who has worked hard to escape his past and who finds himself confronted with it on one too many occasions. He is the emotional connection to the novel, the guiding hand who exhibits the reactions the reader is likely to experience. The other characters are created to draw suspicion – law enforcers, politicians and civilians alike – everyone is a suspect, everyone is linked and everyone is utterly suspicious. The Few might not be so few after all.
The Few is a fantastic debut with a charm all of its own and a suitably mysterious protagonist who is sure to draw readers back for more. Fans of crime thrillers should find this a well-paced, exhilarating read and, having only amplified my cravings for more Italian crime fiction, I can only wait for The American’s release next year. Thoroughly enjoyed. Heartily recommended. Want more.