July 12, 2012

Book Review: The Namesake (the Italian one)

I really love Donna Leon's books, so I was excited when Shelf Awareness sent me The Namesake (an Italian mystery, not to be confused with the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri) for review. It didn't have the same brilliance as Leon's books, but it was still fun, and the mistaken identity premise was intriguing.

In The Namesake, his third Commissario Alec Blume novel, Conor Fitzgerald delves into the mysterious secrets of the 'Ndrangheta--an organized crime syndicate whose constituent families see it as almost a form of religion.

It all starts simply enough: Blume has been working with magistrate Matteo Arconti to investigate a Roman doctor's "suicide," which quickly leads them to the Megale family--key leaders in one of the branches of the 'Ndrangheta. Then a Milanese insurance adjustor, also named Matteo Arconti, is found dead outside the court buildings where Magistrate Arconti works. Blume and his girlfriend, Inspector Caterina Mattiola, quickly realize the dead Arconti was harmless, his murder a warning from the 'Ndrangheta to Matteo Arconti the magistrate.

The violent message assures Blume he and Arconti were on the right track in their investigation, so he sets out on his own to try and get to the Megale family and their burgeoning crime network in Germany. Caterina is furious at his maverick techniques, and his collaboration with the federal anti-Mafia forces, certain Blume is putting his own life at risk.

Blume's arrogance and stubbornness make him frustrating to both his fellow law enforcement agents and the criminals trying to thwart him. Fitzgerald's writing brings a realistic immediacy to Blume's complicated character, making the reader root for him to win despite his many flaws. The Namesake is both a gripping mystery and a fascinating look at organized crime in contemporary Italy.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Um. I wouldn't.

Have you heard of the 'Ndrangheta? 
Ever met anyone with the same name as you?