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by Massimo Carlotto
Orion, January 2005
192 pages
ISBN: 0752857355

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Italian crime writer Massimo Carlotto has certainly had an eventful and unusual life -- and this is reflected in his crime fiction. He was arrested and tortured for a crime he didn't commit and served seven years in prison before being released.

The hero of THE MASTER OF KNOTS is Marco, better known as Alligator. He's a former blues singer who was banged up in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Since his release he runs a club and works as a PI, mainly out of a sense of justice that he himself never received. He has two less than saintly sidekicks in the former of aging gangster Beniamino Rossini and Fat Max, another criminal-turned-environmental campaigner. Their methods aren't always what you'd call textbook.

It's the Italy you don't see in all those dreamy travel brochures depicting historic Rome or gorgeous Tuscan hills. Instead, there's corruption all through society where bribes for information are a fact of everyday life, up as far as the police and government.

Alligator and his mates are asked to investigate the disappearance of Helena Giraldi. Her husband, though, seems decidedly shifty, and it doesn't take long for the trio to ferret out that Helena and Mariano were into the S&M scene.

The kidnappers, though, left a bizarre clue -- a length of rope with a series of tiny knots fashioned to look like a rose. And soon it becomes a race against time for Alligator and the others to track down the sinister Master of Knots as other S&M people disappear.

If you only like cosies, you won't like THE MASTER OF KNOTS. If you find Val McDermid's Tony Hill series bloodthirsty, then avoid Carlotto. If you like Ken Bruen you'll devour it in one sitting as I did. The only flaw from where I was sitting was an ending wrapped up with indecent haste.

It's excellent news for crime fans that publishers have finally cottoned on to the fact there's some outstanding European crime fiction waiting to be translated into English. High Street bookshops in the UK are finally beginning to sport Eurocrime sections -- and not before time.

The question of translations always intrigues me. Occasionally with some writers -- including the very wonderful Henning Mankell -- the translation feels slightly 'off.' Here it doesn't. Translator Christopher Woodall seems eminently comfortable with his text and I was confident that the bleak, understated translation was true to Carlotto's style.

THE MASTER OF KNOTS is dangerous, edgy noir crime fiction at its absolute finest and certain to be one of my books of the year.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, January 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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