KILLING GROUND by Gerald Seymour
Kirkus Star


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An utterly unsentimental and elegantly crafted tale of the global drug trade, from the immensely accomplished Seymour (The Heart of Danger, 1995, etc.). Axel Moen, a Rome-based DEA operative, recruits a young Englishwoman named Charlotte (Charley) Parsons to help him bring La Cosa Nostra's aging capo to some sort of justice. Four years earlier, Charley had spent a happy summer working as a nanny at the home of Giuseppe (Peppino) Ruggerio, the younger, university-educated brother of Mario, a cunning, elusive fugitive who heads LCN. When his unhappy wife gives birth to a third baby, Peppino (a virtuoso at laundering large sums of dirty money) invites Charley to resume her post as a mother's helper and companion. Cautioning Charley to lie low until the appearance of Mario (the target of the DEA's campaign), Moen keeps a lonely, nerve-wracking watch over his confidential informant as she goes about her household duties in the high-rent district of Sicily's blood-drenched capital. Then Peppino attracts the attention of Scotland Yard on a flying visit (under an alias) to the UK. Subsequent inquiries disclose that an American agency has plucked a local rose without telling the host country's law-enforcement agencies; with noses out of joint, the buck is passed up the line to ranking functionaries in Washington, who decide that the diplomatic as well as political risks are too great. The order comes down to abort the operation. Before the withdrawal directive can be executed, however, all hell breaks loose on the killing grounds of Palermo. In a show of power, Mario issues a contract on a troublesome magistrate (who dies in a spectacular car bombing) and then boldly comes out of hiding for a family celebration. At the close, the forces of good have won a famous victory, albeit one whose high cost makes it bittersweet. An arresting saga of the world that turns on menace, mistrust, moral ambiguity, and vaulting ambition.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: HarperCollins