Bandit Love by Massimo Carlotto
|Bandit Love by Massimo Carlotto
|Reviewer: John Lloyd
|Summary: A short and sour noir, with baddies-done-good forced back into criminal proceedings - but for nice, moral reasons.... if only the world would let them.
|Date: December 2010
|Publisher: Europa Editions
In 2004 three criminals-turned-good are approached by a stranger to investigate a drugs haul, stolen from a fully-secure institute. Rather than be pressurised into the job by a man who cannot state what info he needs, nor for whom nor why, they let him die, leaving his ugly bling ring behind for his operators. In 2006 one of them has the nightmare of his girlfriend being kidnapped, and replaced by the same ring. Can the trio work out the identity of a man dead two years, involved somehow in the federal theft, and counter the current crime?
The beginnings of this noir thriller are the hero, named Marco 'The Alligator', trawling through any lowlife stereotypes he can find - snitches, hookers, transvestite hookers, and more. But as the story opens out while at the same time the threesome close in on whodunit, the thrust of the story is laid bare. This is a fractured, new Europe. The Mafia are spreading corruption from their traditional grounds, and finding competition from other, even more desperate, groups of people.
The way this comes across is reasonably successful. The nature of Marco and chums, as baddies with a gamut of styles in which to get their way, from quiet espionage up to colleagues with nice new guns, is such that they are still the typical floundering investigators. They cannot understand the modern warfare on the streets of their Italy, they are ageing ex-cons wanting to stay honest, with a quiet life - but aren't being allowed to.
The way they solve their situation - and then some - has a pleasing narrative flow, but there are flaws to this. They find their implausible scenario too easy to get out of, and they know just who to turn to for a bribe, a favour, a bit of pressure, in order to learn more. We however don't know them - for a book with a first person singular narrator, it's surprising how much the triplet are a corpus we cannot penetrate enough, and the three characters are as one in our impressions too often and too much.
Their messy, immoral surroundings do have more character, however, and the taut telling (which some might blame for the lack of individuality in Marco and friends) does lend this fresh approach to noir some personality. The scenes of them resorting to stake-outs and tailing criminals, with their own criminal past forever present, proves, in this bent and dirty world, the lines between good and evil are dangerously thin.
It's a lesson and an approach that makes for a book with some distinction, if nothing standout. At this brevity it can be recommended for noir fans as a diversion.
I must thank the kind Europa Editions people for my review copy.
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