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by Lorenzo Carcaterra
Simon & Schuster, May 2007
352 pages
11.99 GBP
ISBN: 0743285387

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This novel is a sequel to Carcaterra's APACHES. If you followed the action of the previous novel and found it involving, then no doubt you will be equally impressed with this outing. If, on the other hand, you find something repellent about a diet of endless dead bodies and oceans of blood, perhaps you had best look elsewhere for your literary feast.

My favourite sequence of sentences occurs on the first page of the book. A young woman has been shot. She is a waitress and has what seems to me the most amazing reaction to this event. "Her left arm twitched and one of her shoes landed near her neck, a low-heeled pump resting on its side, black strap snapped off. She had bought the shoes with the money from her last pay check, paying more than she could afford for a pair of Ferragamos she had always dreamed of owning. She closed her eyes and wondered if she would be buried wearing those shoes." Come on! With the strap snapped? Actually, my quarrel is not with the strap but with the notion that a dying girl would be absorbed by such a strange contemplation.

More credible reactions follow. The girl's uncle, Giovanni 'Boomer' Frontieri, a former policeman, retired because of injury, surveys the scene and decides to wreak vengeance. He rounds up the friends who survived the Apaches episode, then adds to their number from other wounded veterans (not the least being a young forensics expert, nicknamed Quincy, who has unfortunately contracted AIDS).

Perhaps the most unusual of the team is Buttercup (my favourite character) a reputedly drug addicted Neapolitan Bull Mastiff. She has been wounded badly but is such a good cop she has a full pension. Like the other Apaches, she still needs the rush given by the successful take down of crooks.

But when oh when is Carcaterra going to learn that less is more? The pages of this novel are not so much gore spattered as veritably flooded by the red stuff. Human limbs, too, decorate the chapters. It would have been nice if some thought had been put into bringing the characters to life rather than sentencing so many of them to death but the author obviously prefers working with a killing hand rather than a creative one.

The New York of the author's imagination is owned by several gangs: Italian, Russian, Latino and goodness knows what else. Oh, and one gang, the newest, is owned by a conscienceless turncoat priest who prefers other people's money to his vow of poverty. Boomer manages to set them at odds with each other in an attempt to have them annihilate each other.

Unfortunately, all the characters, even the women (but Buttercup doesn't talk) speak with the one voice. Thus, if one loses one's page in the middle of a conversation and accidentally opens the book in the middle of another speech, it is not always possible to work out that a different person is in charge of the dialogue.

If the story could be winnowed from the chaff of assorted body parts and whole corpses, it could have been made into an intriguing novel; as it is, it's unfortunately difficult to strain for the connective thread.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, June 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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