An efficient and intriguing, if sometimes bumpy, crime tale.


A wealthy Sicilian businessman with shady connections handles threats and opportunities in this novel.

Life is good for 55-year-old Dr. Pasquale Nebrodi, a respected and affluent mover and shaker in Taormina. With his beautiful wife, Donna Rosa, he lives in a palatial villa lavishly supplied with contemporary art. Inspired by such favorite books as Machiavelli’s The Prince and Donald Trump and Tony Schwartz’s The Art of the Deal, Don Pasquale has a hugely ambitious project in view: a bridge across the Strait of Messina, something that’s been dreamed of since Roman times. The killing of Mafia boss Nunzio Rizzo removes one obstacle to the project, and Don Pasquale anticipates smooth sailing in the form of 650 million euros of funding from the European Investment Bank. When the bank declines to back the businessman, worried about Mafia entanglement, he has some maneuvering to do, flying to England to rally financial support from his London club, whose members include the unscrupulous wealthy. It’s a complicated deal with rich potential for several income streams, but Don Pasquale’s chances suddenly improve when convulsive Italian politics put him on the short list to head a technical government. Meanwhile, the case of a wandering man with amnesia whose notebook includes the name Don Pasquale is looked into by Inspector Filippo Bellini, a childhood friend of the entrepreneur’s. The amnesiac is Anthony Caruso of Toronto, as the petty thieves who assaulted him, Pippo Greco and Luca Mosca, learn from his stolen passport. With Pippo’s Canadian cousin, they try to extort half a million dollars from Caruso’s distraught wife, supposedly as ransom. Then Donna Rosa, convinced that her husband is cheating on her in England, jealously begins a dangerous affair with Don Pasquale’s PR man; Bellini investigates the deadly consequences. Just as Don Pasquale’s fortunes are rising to the greatest heights, downfall looms.

Manera, author of several novels as well as nonfiction books and a memoir, writes a fast-paced story that wastes no time in building to its climax. He shows a keen understanding of Italian and specifically Sicilian politics, business practices, and culture; matters such as the complicated Italian Parliamentary system are explained clearly, sometimes in helpful footnotes. He also makes good use of Mount Etna as a metaphor for Don Pasquale’s rise and possible fall, as Bellini suggests to him in a nice bit of foreshadowing: “Isn’t it amazing how peaceful Etna is most of the time? Yet, even when a mantle of snow covers its peak, there could be a devastating eruption. Sometimes, there are warning signs.” The ending provides satisfaction, with all the loose ends tied up. But the characterization doesn’t go very deep, consisting mainly of tagging each player with a few interests: Don Pasquale admires callous narcissists; Bellini is proud of his vineyard; Donna Rosa works to protect the environment on Mount Etna; and so on. Exposition can also be clumsy, as when Bellini explains to a Northern Italian that Milan is “Italy’s financial hub, as you must know,” together with tiresomely repetitive questions in the dialogue.

An efficient and intriguing, if sometimes bumpy, crime tale.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 160

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2021

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.


Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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