BANDIT LOVE by Massimo Carlotto

Book Quote:

“Mafiosi are mistrustful by nature. When they wake up every morning, the first thing they think about is how to go out and screw their neighbor, taking special care to sniff out the slightest risk to themselves of falling into the same trap; if they get ripped off, it can lead to a dangerous and uncontrollable drop in their popularity within the shark-infested social network of their crime family.”

Book Review:

Review by Guy Savage  (SEP 29, 2010)

If you’re a fan of Italian crime fiction, then reading Massimo Carlotto is a necessity. This author dubbed the “king of Mediterranean Noir” creates bleak worlds in which his Nietzschean anti-heroes struggle to survive. I “discovered” Carlotto in 2007 through Death’s Dark Abyss and The Goodbye Kiss. These excellent crime tales remain some of the darkest Italian noir I’ve ever stumbled across. The Fugitive, a brilliant true account of the author’s life on the run came next, and then last year Poisonville, a novel which addressed the connection between Italy’s toxic waste crisis and the Mafia.

Bandit Love has the feel of a buddy novel, but the relationship of those buddies is entrenched in past lives of crime. The buddies in the novel are ex-con turned unlicensed PI Marco Burrati (aka the Alligator), gangster Beniamino Rossini, and Max la Memoria (Max the Memory). Burrati and Max, now trying to go straight, are co-owners of a bar named La Cuccia, and here Max the Memory (also known as the Fat Man) endlessly cooks his favourite recipes. For their camaraderie and implicit faith in one another, these three characters could easily have strolled out of the Jean-Pierre Melville film Le Cercle Rouge. The action in Bandit Love, however, mostly takes place in Italy, and while it does include a heist, the story centres on the disappearance of Rossini’s belly dancer lover, Sylvie.

The mystery of Sylvie’s disappearance takes place early in the novel, and it’s an event that pulls together the three friends, former partners in crime as they pool resources to hunt for Sylvie. Sylvie’s disappearance takes place in 2006, but as Burrati digs around for clues, he realizes that Sylvie’s disappearance is not a random act, and instead it’s part of a complex chain of events that began in 2004. While Sylvie’s disappearance seems to be a component of an elaborate revenge, Burrati, who’s the main character here, concedes that they’re in a quagmire involving the Serbian organized crime, the Kosovar Mafia and the burglary of a stash of drugs from a laboratory storeroom.

Burrati, who’s in his 40s, drifting along, largely unwilling to commit to anything particularly serious in life, and attracted to dangerous women, is a great character. Here’s Burrati’s PI ethic when it comes to cheating spouses he’s been paid to catch:

“The client was sacred, but then one day it dawned on me that the universe of suspicious spouses deserves only to have its wallets emptied and that, all things considered, cheating on your husband or wife is just one of the many ways of making it through the day, or night. What really pounded the concept into my head was a blonde from Mestre, just outside Venice, who caught me following her one day. She used highly persuasive arguments and tones. “At work, my boss busts my chops, my daughter’s going to have to wear her braces for another two years, and my husband is a regular guy, but I might have been a little overhasty when I decided he was the man of my dreams,” she said practically without a pause. “So I step out on him occasionally; nothing serious, just a bout of pure sex, and then I feel better. Can you understand that?” I nodded and then shared a couple of tricks with her to keep the man to whom she’d sworn eternal fidelity from getting too suspicious.”

Burrati’s world is full of edgy, violent criminals, ambitious Mafiosi, crooked cops, and greedy lowlifes, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that one of the other great characters is a professional snitch-cum-prostitute, the seductive Morena, a woman Burrati can’t quite resist even though he should know better:

“She had tried working in a number of legal venues, but nothing worked out. She was very attractive, she knew how to dress, and she started frequenting the best places in town. After a succession of failed relationships with the sons of wealthy businessmen, she started sniffing cocaine and turning the occasional discreet trick. Occasional, carefully considered, and well paid. Nonetheless, she found herself in trouble with the law. Luckily for her, a compassionate cop with nice manners pointed out an alternative, explaining that she knew lots of things, valuable information that could be worth cold hard cash on the right market.”

Bandit Love’s weakness is that it squashes so much into a fairly slim novel. With a large number of characters–some of whom share a sordid past–it’s hard to keep the story (which is spread over 5 years) straight. At the same time, characters who never appear are mentioned, and for this reason, Bandit Love had the feel of a series novel. First-in-the-series novels are generally weaker as they serve as portals to other worlds. Carlotto’s website details all the books, and reveals that there are five so far–including two others translated into English: The Master of Knots and The Columbian Mule.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-51from 3 reader2
PUBLISHER: Europa Editions (September 28, 2010)
REVIEWER: Guy Savage
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Massimo Carlotto
EXTRAS: Publisher page on Bandit Love
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:


The Alligator Series:

Stand-alone Mystery:


September 29, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: italy, Mystery/Suspense, Noir, Sleuths Series, Thriller/Spy/Caper

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