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by Donato Carrisi and Howard Curtis, trans.
Abacus, January 2013
496 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 034900031X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In Rome, two men meet to discuss the abduction of a young woman; one of them, Marcus, is suffering a loss of memory but still has a special capability to enter the mind behind such crimes. The two are members of the Penitenzieri, an organisation linked to the Vatican that seeks to combat evil. In Milan, policewoman Sandra grieves for her dead husband, a photojournalist. She receives a call suggesting his death may not have been an accident, travels to Rome, where he died, and finds clues showing he was on the trail of the Penitenzieri when he was murdered. The paths of Marcus and Sandra cross and the truth behind a number of outstanding abduction and murder cases is exposed.

This book follows Carrisi's previous novel THE WHISPERER, which also features the abduction of young women and a female police officer protagonist with a tragic history. Presumably the success of that book has encouraged the author to write a second with many of the same features. This latest one certainly has many of the characteristics found in popular thrillers, with dark Machiavellian foes, feverish chases to rescue the innocent, and the slow revelation of back story to keep the reader guessing about key characters and their motivations.

However, despite the author's postscript to the effect that the key themes of the book were inspired by real-life cases, many aspects of THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME undermine credibility: the incompetence of the police and the ease with which the numerous evil-doers manipulate their pursuers in particular. One character keeps tabs on the discovery of corpses by observing bodies arriving at Rome morgues; how one person could simultaneously monitor several morgues 24/7 is not explained. The Vatican connections and the number of old churches is unfortunately reminiscent of Dan Brown and his many other emulators.

The author also pontificates a good deal upon the nature of good and evil, sin and redemption, the life of a building when its inhabitants decamp, etc. Much of this seems rather random and of dubious philosophical merit; rather than substantiating claims to literary worth it merely becomes very wearing. Readability is further affected by some minor oddities in translation.

Notwithstanding the above criticisms, it is likely that the romance of the locations and the fast pace of THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME will garner it some attention, and there is always a market for books dealing with the abduction and murder of young women. Those who like freshness and a firm foundation in credibility for their reading matter might do better looking elsewhere.

Chris Roberts is a retired manager of shopping centres in Hong Kong, and now lives in Bristol, primarily reading.

Reviewed by Chris Roberts, January 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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