Review: The Hit by Nadia Dalbuono

The Hit

Book Three of the Leone Scamarcio Series

by Nadia Dalbuono

Crime | 320 Pages | Published by Scribe UK in 2016

| Rating |

Under the heady lights of showbusiness, where money, sex and drugs fuel an atmosphere of disquiet, Nadia Dalbuono kicks off her return to the Leone Scamarcio series at a relentless pace. With media moguls, mafia dons and politicos battling to call the shots, The Hit is a gripping crime thriller which certainly equals its predecessors in atmosphere, tension and plot.

The investigation of an apparent hit-and-run unravels a tangled web in modern Rome.

When the family of Micky Proietti, a top television executive, goes missing, Leone Scamarcio is called to investigate. Everyone, it seems — from Premier League footballers to jilted starlets and cabinet ministers — has an axe to grind with Proietti. What starts out as an investigation into his countless affairs soon becomes an inquiry into how Proietti does business and the people he has discarded along the way. Finally, Proietti’s finances attract Scamarcio’s attention, and he discovers that the drama commissioner has been granting favours to some very shadowy sponsors.

Like a swimmer trying to escape a riptide, Scamarcio comes to realise that this new inquiry threatens to bring him head to head with his father’s old lieutenant, Piero Piocosta. If he’s to survive in the police force, Scamarcio knows that he must find a way to get Piocosta off his back, once and for all. And find it quickly.

Reluctantly, he travels home to Calabria in an attempt to understand how powerful Piocosta has really become and whether he might ever be silenced. It’s a perilous journey, but one Scamarcio has to make if he’s to finally banish the ghosts of his past.

With countless enemies and numerous false friends, a leading figure in the television game, Micky Proietti, is caught in a terrible accident with his wife and child. But when his family fail to arrive at the hospital following the incident, kidnapping seems the only likely explanation – and one which Leone Scamarcio must solve quickly.

But Scamarcio has problems of his own. With his father’s old mafia connections vying to control him, Scamarcio is threatened with losing everything he’s worked so hard to build, and is in danger of falling back into a world he fought to leave behind.

If the scene setting and character development of the opening chapter starts a little slowly, the vast majority of the novel more than makes up for it as a wealth of hardened criminals and suspicious characters vie to to make themselves the most likely suspect in the unfolding drama. And with two interwoven storylines running side by side, the seamless transition between the overriding criminal investigation and Scamarcio’s own storyline of Calabrian mafiosos, familial struggle and his past escape to Rome, makes this a complex and engaging crime thriller.

Through an absorbing narrative and meticulous attention to detail, the dark underbelly of Rome and the toxic, sweltering atmosphere of Catanzaro spring into life as both criminals and politicians come to the fore. As in the preceding novels, the depiction of Rome appears both beautiful and unflinchingly realistic; Dalbuono never shies away from thrusting the grit and grime of locations into her novels yet her love of the country is at all times apparent. This is an almost photographic portrait of two very different locations.

But while both Rome and Catanzaro provide the perfect backdrop to the unfolding drama, it is the interplay of characters that truly weaves this tangled web of villainy. With intoxicating showgirls vying for attention, and actors, directors and errand boys seeking centre stage, Dalbuono manages to build the necessary depth and background to the crime through a series of fleeting interactions and intelligent distractions which work to make Scamarcio’s task an increasingly difficult one.

And these novels cannot be read without becoming thoroughly invested in Leone Scamarcio. The troubled, chain smoking son of a former mafioso has a storyline equally as tantalising as the overriding crime itself, and it is in The Hit that we truly get to grips with the impact of his past action and inaction. The thrill of the crime is, as always, tantamount to the novel, yet it is the ever-mired Scamarcio who provides the familiar backdrop in an ever-growing sea of troubles. This is a character who has you coming back for more.

Dalbuono offers more than just a fast paced thriller with this release. Her prose is descriptive and beautiful where necessary, her protagonist is complex and absorbing, and her plot is dynamic and unpredictable. From the heart of Rome, to the glare of the spotlight, Dalbuono paints a scene which could only have come from experience or the most thorough research; her attention to detail is capable of transporting the reader in an instant onto the busy streets of Rome, under the heavy sun of Catanzaro, or into the path of ever present danger.

Utterly absorbing and vivid in its detail, The Hit is the perfect action packed follow up to The Few and The American. And with the release of its sequel, The Extremist, this month, it won’t be long before Scamarcio makes a very welcome return to my bookshelf.

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