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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Your problem these days is getting information, and the cops are the best source available.", 17 Oct 2010
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bandit Love (World Noir) (Paperback)
Massimo Carlotto, who has achieved as much fame for his noir mysteries involving the Mafia in Italy as he has for his seven year incarceration for a murder he did not commit, puts his knowledge of law enforcement, lawyers, the criminal justice system, and the Mafia to use in this up-close-and-personal look at the growing power of international Mafias. Set primarily in Padua, the novel features Marco, "the Alligator" Buratti, the owner of a small bar called La Cuccia, in which he shares ownership with Max La Memoria. Together they also do private investigations. Beniamino Rossini, a smuggler and armed robber, who was in prison with both of them, is also available to help out.

When Sylvie, Beniamino's belly dancer-lover vanishes without a trace, the three men set to work turning the underworld upside down, finding evidence to suggest that the kidnapping was related to a huge drug robbery from two years ago. The Institute of Legal Medicine of the University of Padua had stored fifty kilograms of narcotics, including thirty kilograms of heroin and ten kilos of cocaine, for toxicological testing of the active principles, and the robbery was clearly an inside job.

Shifting back and forth between the robbery and the present, Carlotto crafts his dark and terrifying story from the viewpoint of Buratti and his friends, none of whom have any qualms about doing whatever is necessary to gain information that will allow them to find Sylvie. They are helped in their investigation by their friendship with Morena Borromeo, a prostitute who has become an informer , and who can often get information through pillow talk with influential people. To make connections with these people, Buratti and his associates must commit crimes of their own. Despite their willingness to use violence and/or murder to accomplish their ends, however, Marco Buratti, Max La Memoria, and Beniamino Rossini remain "human" in the hands of the author. All have ordinary interests that make it possible for readers to identify with them, despite everything else.

Carlotto compresses time throughout this novel, telling what amounts to a three-hundred page novel in fewer than two hundred pages, and readers may find themselves flipping back and forth to the table of contents to remind themselves whether they are in Padua, Grenoble, or Lugano and whether the date is 2004, 2006, 2008, or 2009. Buratti and his associates must investigate criminals and criminal enterprises that cross the boundaries of many countries and territories, all with their own internal Mafias. The Croatians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Romanians, Turks, Russians, Serbian intelligence services, and Kosovar Mafia are all angling for power in northeast Italy, trying to control the flood of drugs coming from Morocco, Algeria, and elsewhere. Though the action is fast and furious, and the many characters are often hard to keep track of, Carlotto's novel is a satisfying noir achievement, written with insight, intelligence, and passion, even as its characters often seem to be living hopeless lives. Mary Whipple
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars more fun than should be reasonable for a crime novel, 23 Sep 2011
Amy Henry (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bandit Love (World Noir) (Paperback)
"This was underworld business: it was a mathematical certainty that it was going to end badly... Somebody was going to die. That was the only thing we knew for sure as the car raced eastward in the night."

It starts with a kidnapping that makes little sense, and moves nonstop into one of the most enjoyable literary treats I've read this year. Even though this crime novel is serious business, there's an air of humor that surrounds a trio of ex-cons and bad guys that are called in to solve the crime. Yep, these guys, having paid their dues as tough guys and retired from that life of crime, now just want to sit back and drink Calvados, eat pasta, and listen to the blues. Except for the lead, Marco Buratti, who also happens to be addicted to home shopping television shows.

The action is non-stop as it crosses through Italy and into the Balkans as the three men try to solve two mysteries. They had previously got involved in a hit that went wrong, the moral of which was, "know who you do business for and why before you shoot someone." Since they didn't obey that rule, they have to backtrack and solve that before the kidnapped woman can be found.

The characters that they run into are just that: characters. Carlotto makes them memorable, with little clues that make them feel much more complicated than just a simple definition of "bad guy". Drug smugglers have egos and their own tragic flaws, of which these experienced searchers exploit, while at the same time they lament,

"Why do Mafiosi always seem to have one useless son?"

This leads to an amusing conversation as they analyze The Godfather and The Sopranos to point out just which characters were intellectually-challenged. The rapport between the three is priceless, as they unquestionably back each other up, which would seem unlikely for the world they live in. And what a world that is, when drug smuggling and police corruption is impossibly powerful, with so many innocents thrown into the conflict.

I can't even begin to explain why this book was so much fun, given the subject matter was serious and at times, appalling. Perhaps it's the universal simplicities that unite everyone-good or bad-the power of a good meal? A view of the sea? The comfort of a regular table at the trattoria?
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Bandit Love (World Noir)
Bandit Love (World Noir) by Massimo Carlotto (Paperback - 14 Oct 2010)
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