Curatolo (Campanilismo, 2013) mixes classic Mafia-fiction tropes with the twists and turns of the pharmaceutical industry in this thriller.
Jimmy Delvecchio and Frank Serono are finally on the top of the world—or close enough, anyway. As partners at the head of a successful pharmaceutical discovery company, focused on novel antibiotics, the two have managed to consistently stay on the cutting edge, despite competing with pharmaceutical giants. But although both of them are savvy in business and research, they also have their biases and baggage. Jimmy comes from a Mafia family, and although he paid his way out of the game by selling his online pharmacy, he can’t refuse when an uncle asks him for help in selling a truckload of stolen prescription drugs. Meanwhile, Frank’s life is much more conventional—until his temper gets the better of him and he goes on a crusade to debunk the snake oil salesmen hocking naturopathic “medicines” while flaunting bogus degrees. As Frank’s science blog draws attention and Jimmy nudges his uncle to sell the merchandise internationally, the two end up under fire from everyone from the mob to the government to herbal remedy schemers; they even turn on each other, and there’s no telling how they’ll get out of their many troubles. Although this novel is a follow-up to Curatolo’s Campanilismo, readers don’t need to worry about jumping in cold. There’s plenty of detail and characterization from the beginning, and there aren’t any characters or circumstances that readers are expected to know going in. Not only that, but the text relates the breadth of its subject matter in a concise way, leaving the reader with a much greater understanding of organized crime, the pharmaceutical industry, medical research and development, and the natural medicine industry than he or she did before. As a result, there’s plenty of exposition throughout, but it rarely slows down the pace of the story. Finally, the main characters are sharp and incisive, clearly demonstrating who they are and what they value in the world, making their conflicts and interactions with colorful supporting players all the more intriguing.
An entertaining and illuminating romp through interconnected and delightfully suspect organizations.