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by John Domini

Pub Date: June 11th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-945814-85-3
Publisher: Dzanc

The latest from Domini (Movieola!, 2016, etc.) is a dark, brisk-paced, and intriguing—if sometimes slightly ungainly—hybrid.

In a Naples rattled by a major earthquake, the authorities are struggling to maintain a semblance of order, and those at the margins of the culture, especially the under-the-radar African refugees known as clandestini, find themselves even more vulnerable and imperiled than before. When one such immigrant is the victim of a grisly murder, Risto—a Somali-born Neapolitan who owns a prominent art gallery and is married to an Italian woman named Paola—decides to investigate, in part to aid the authorities and in part to pressure them into pursuing the case more energetically. Risto, orphaned in his teens and scarred by the trauma of those war-ravaged years in Mogadishu, soon finds himself plunged into an impassable thicket of mysteries and secrets (nothing and no one in this book is quite what it seems) and plagued by memories of his youth, by doubts about those close to him, and by a kind of hallucination, a nimbus of light. But the novel’s primary interest lies less in the surface mystery of the plot, which is nimbly constructed but familiar, than in Domini’s exploration of race, class, and immigration, of what it feels like to be at the dark, desperate fringes of a cosmopolitan European city, a proud old culture that demands assimilation at the same time that it keeps insisting there is a stigma of foreignness that can’t ever be shed.

A dark, buzzing, sometimes-chaotic literary noir written in lively and often elegant prose with an intriguing meditation on immigration and assimilation at its center.