2011; 483 pages. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Crime Mystery; Thriller. Overall Rating : 9*/10.
In Milan, Italy, a policewoman seeks to understand why her freelance reporter husband fell off a building. In Rome, a serial killer is found in a coma, with the words “Kill Me” scrawled on his chest. And in a strangest coincidence, the EMT intern who finds him is the twin sister of one of his victims. In another part of Rome, two shadowy “investigators”, Marcus and his mentor Clemente, investigate the case of a kidnapped college girl, being careful not to cross paths with the police.
Marcus has an additional mystery to solve – he’s suffering from amnesia, with the past coming back only in bits and pieces in his nightmares.
Tread softly, everyone. Evil is afoot, and those who have to deal with it will sometimes get their hands dirty.
What’s To Like...
Donato Carrisi hops back and forth between the three main plotlines listed above, then mixes in a couple more killings and a set of mysterious flashbacks. The Lost Girls of Rome will give your brain a good workout as you try to figure out who’s behind each death, and how they all connect to each other. Things are complicated, but if you pay attention, it’s not confusing.
All the main characters are deeply developed, and Marcus is especially fascinating. His detecting skille are close to those of Sherlock Holmes, so it’s fun to watch him examine a crime scene. He focuses on looking for anomalies in the patterns, and is extremely skeptical of anything masquerading as a coincidence. Clemente may be the mentor, but Marcus is the wunderkind, despite his amnesia.
The writing is excellent even though it's a translation into “England” English from the original Italian. There are a slew of plot twists to keep you on your literary toes, and while the storyline is complex, Carrisi’s skillfully maneuvering brings it all together into a logical, if somewhat stutter-step conclusion. I especially liked the flashbacks, as well as the (supposedly factual) concepts of the penitenzieri and transformists.
Kewlest New Word. . .
Pastis (n.) : a aniseed-flavored aperitif.
“We’re not dealing with a case of multiple personality,” Florinda Valdez said, “or the kind of patient who claims to be Napoleon or the Queen of England. Subjects affected by chameleon syndrome tend to imitate perfectly whoever they meet. Faced with a doctor they become doctors, faced with a cook they say they know how to cook. Questioned on their profession, they respond in a general but appropriate manner.” (. . .)
“But Angelina doesn’t simply emulate other people. When she was in contact with the old woman, she actually began to age. Her mind was causing her body to change.” (pg. 161)
“Even if I explain to you what I do, it wouldn’t be enough.”
“Then at least tell me why you do it.”
The penitenziere was silent for a few moments. “There is a place where the world of light meets the world of darkness. It is there that everything happens: in the land of shadows., where everything is vague, confused, undefined. We are the guardians appointed to defend that border. But every now and then something manages to get through.” He turned to look at Sandra. “I have to chase it back into the darkness.” (pg. 246)
We often forget that even monsters were children once. (pg. 178)
Those who read The Lost Girls of Rome for the Crime-Mystery aspect will not be disappointed. There’s lots of Action and Intrigue, and I didn’t feel like there were any slow spots. But on a deeper level, the novel raises a number of psychological issues, which at times are both enlightening and disturbing.
To wit – are we born good, evil, or amoral? If the latter, can childhood experiences turn some of us into monsters, and if so, can psychopaths such as serial killers be “turned back” into good people. Finally, if a person is never shown or introduced to a concept such as mercy or love, how would he know to use and apply it later on?
9 Stars. The Lost Girls of Rome is a superb story on both the Thriller-Mystery and the Psychological levels. Subtract 2 stars if you were looking for a beach read or an airport novel. This is not a book to read when you want to take off your thinking cap and relax.