It’s a Mystery: The Deliverance of Evil, by Roberto Costantini


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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Deliverance of Evil is the debut novel of Italian writer Roberto Costantini. It opens in 1982, when Italy is celebrating the winning of the World Cup, thus taking little notice of a young woman’s murder on the streets of Rome. Detective Michele Balistreri doesn’t have the luxury of  ignoring the crime, but the heavy drinking, chain smoking womanizer is arrogantly certain that he’ll solve this murder. The case goes cold, however,  and the next 100 pages of this book are dedicated to demonstrating what a pretentious, hollow lowlife Balistreri is.

Though not exactly  on fast-forward, the story eventually takes its readers to 2006, and Italy is again on the verge of  another World Cup. Balistreri has finally hit rock bottom, where he lingers until pulled out of his self destructive funk by the death of his mother. When his clears, he remembers his failure to solve the long ago murder, and, feeling a modicum of guilt, sets out to rectify the situation.   Don’t look for the emergence of a Columbo, but Belistreri stumbles upon a deadly Eastern European prostitution ring,  and, when more murders occur, begins to piece together some links between past and present.

The Deliverance of Evil is full of extraneous detail, sketchily drawn characters, and a wordy rather than action based plot.  But buried among the extraneous clutter are some valuable insights in Italy’s social problems, which include widespread political corruption, a flood of immigrants, and constant conflict between church and state.  Rather than repeatedly demonstrating Balistreri’s moral ambiguity, some exploration of his own conflicts would add interest (ala Kurt Wallander.)  This novel is too long by at least a hundred pages, and tighter editing might shape it into a tauter, more appealing work.

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