Nealon’s debut combines the politics and intrigue of a mob story with the ghostly touches of a supernatural horror tale. As heir to the family legacy, Vincenzo Attanasio inherits a unique problem when his father, the don, passes away: managing the three nonhuman entities bound to his family. The spirit Santo Seneschal has been with the family for generations, serving as assistant and confidant. Bereu, as Aspirate, helps out the family in more shadowy ways. Chiara, a creation of Bereu, is an immortal woman capable of taking whatever form is desired by the family member she serves. Though the three have served the Attanasios for generations, they don’t feel the same about their situation. While Santo Seneschal considers the family his duty and seems honored to serve, Chiara simply wants her freedom, and Bereu wants to destroy the family that kept him enslaved for so long. Unfortunately, as the Attanasio bloodline goes on, Bereu’s connection to them grows weaker and weaker until finally, with the don’s death, he is freed from bondage. Vincenzo and his children, now in terrible danger from a source they had always trusted, must learn Bereu’s plan and figure out how to stop him before the bodies start piling up. The premise is interesting, and the take on the typical mob story refreshing. It’s interesting, too, how the mob mentality comes across in the family’s relationships with their supernatural servants: Themes of duty and loyalty, as well as justice, are explored well via the conflict between Santo Seneschal and Bereu. The writing could use some revision, though, as when Chiara is first introduced: “Like Bereu Chiara wasn’t human. She wasn’t an ordinary mortal. She hadn’t been born and blessed with life that way.” At a more reasonable length and with some tightening of these repetitive, overexplanatory passages, the story could be sharper and more incisive. Additionally, Santo Senschal and Bereu need to have their back stories further explored; in this book, the present is everything.
An intriguing take on a ghostly mob story.