by Giacomo Giammatteo
A string of brutal murders has bodies piling up in Brooklyn, and Detective Frankie Donovan knows what is going on. Clues left at the crime scenes point to someone from the old neighborhood, and that isn't good.
Frankie has taken two oaths in his life - the one he took to uphold the law when he became a cop, and the one he took with his two best friends when they were eight years old and inseparable.
Those relationships have forced Frankie to make many tough decisions, but now he faces the toughest one of his life; he has five murders to solve and one of those two friends is responsible. If Frankie lets him go, he breaks the oath he took as a cop and risks losing his job. But if he tries to bring him in, he breaks the oath the kept for twenty-five years - and risks losing his life.
In the neighborhood where Frankie Donovan grew up, you never broke an oath.
Expectations: This book looked to be an emotional crime thriller, with the poor Detective having a hard time turning in his friends, but I didn't think there would be much of a struggle with me, obviously you would have to put the bad guys away!
This novel actually exceeded expectations, for where I thought I would get a crime thriller with one conflicted protagonist who is trying to stay true to his roots while also doing his job, I got a novel about three conflicted protagonists who struggle to be true to their idealistic past while carrying on three very different lives as adults. It was both heart-warming and soul-hurting to read about these characters who have a bond forged in those childhood experiences that always seem to be the most important, be torn apart by circumstances and driven down such different paths, yet their oaths of Friendship and Honor keep them together. The author tells the story using different first person narratives from a variety of characters, while also bouncing the story forwards and backwards in time - a difficult set-up but one done superbly, as you start in the present, and pieces of the past are given to you as needed so that the characters and their predicaments are unfolded gradually. The real nature of the story is only clear until about the middle of the book when all the pieces start coming together.
Because the novel goes into the mind of many of the characters, decisions that should be clear-cut, become murky when character motivations make you sympathize with even the murderer, and I think the real power of this book comes from the way the author transitions childhood hopes with harsh adult reality. It's something that everyone has to come to terms with to a certain extent, and the way the author develops it in the lives of his characters creates very poignant and touching moments that at times brought tears to my eyes. Although some sad things need to happen in the story, ultimately it brings off a hope-filled ending, with a resolution that feels right and is perhaps not exactly what I expected. I recommend this book for anyone who wants a well-thought out, character-driven mystery/crime novel, which delves deep into the human psyche.
And I guarantee you'll be craving some Italian food after reading this book!
review copy kindly provided by the author