Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers, including the Harry Tate series, the Lucas Rocco series and the Marc Portman series. His latest books are ‘The Locker’ (Midnight Ink - Feb 2016) the first in a new thriller series, and ‘Hard Cover’ (Severn House - March 2016), the third of his Marc Portman novels.
In this, the third Commissario Alec Blume novel set in Rome, the American-born Blume finds himself thrust into a complex and arcane world he knows little about when a Milan insurance man, Matteo Arconti, is murdered in the city. What seems at first a random, if inexplicable murder, soon takes on a different light when it emerges that there is another Matteo Arconti – this one a magistrate investigating the activities of the Calabrian mafia, otherwise known as the Ndrangheta.
To Blume, the killing of a man with the same name seems a particularly callous way of sending the authorities an obscure yet chilling warning to lay off. But as he’s beginning to learn, there are convoluted practices on all sides. Quite apart from all the political in-fighting going on, there’s sheer makeup of the Ndrangheta on one, with tentacles reaching far and wide – even overseas – and the Carabiniere (Italian Gendarmerie) on the other, in the form of Captain Massimiliano Massimiliani, who lures Blume ever deeper into the investigative mire of Italian organised crime with vague promises of enhanced career prospects while telling him far less than Blume suspects he knows.
With a cast of very intriguing characters, the main movers, apart from Blume, are the family members of the Nrdangheta, young and old, whose archaic practices in deciding who has ascendancy – and who does not – coupled with the old law of Omerta, are unlike anything he has come across before.
But it’s not just the criminals and the fellow cops Blume has to worry about. His relationship with his girlfriend, Chief Inspector Caterina Mattiola, is moving to a new level, whereby he’s considering moving in with her. Yet he finds, with the pressures and speed of the investigation and Massimiliano’s instructions for secrecy, he cannot keep her as informed as she would like.
The story is intriguing and compelling, taking us along with Blume into a world light years away from what we know. But it’s the repressive world of the mafia that stands out in this novel, and the characters of the members – male and female, young and old – who are particularly well-drawn, victims and winners of their upbringing and circumstances in a world of violence, tradition, history and greed.