Winter Goose Publishing
Published June 13, 2015
Trade paperback, 398 pages
Alabaster Black aka Bianca Nerini returns as an investigation into a public official’s assassination pits Bianca and her friends against a backdrop of financial speculation, female assassins on motorcycles, and the Camorra—the most ruthless of Italian organized crime gangs—in Gabriel Valjan’s TURNING TO STONE, the fourth book of the highly praised Roma series.
En route to a secret meeting, Aldo Giurlani—the regional commissioner of Lombardy in northern Italy and a specialist on organized crime—is assassinated in the middle of a public square.
More mysterious is the package sent to Giurlani’s hand-picked team of five top investigators within the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), the Italian law enforcement agency that investigates illegal financial transactions, from money laundering to drug trafficking. Within the package are five copies of a book entitled Man of Smoke written by Aldo Palazzeschi. Then there is Bianca’s tenuous online contact with a mysterious online contact known as Loki, who delivers a cryptic message to her, takes on a new twist with the appearance of a brilliant young obsessive-compulsive man who joins her team.
Turning to Stone is the fourth book in the Roma series. So far I have loved them all, with the first book being my favorite. The books can be read as stand alone but they do build on each other with references to past investigations and with the readers getting to know the characters better. This latest installment takes place in Naples, a city which I have visited since my husband has family there and both his parents immigrated from there.
So you guessed it, crime fiction set in Naples must involve the Mafia. The dreaded Camorra plays an integral part of the plot and with one of the characters going undercover, we witness first-hand how ruthless this organization is. Once again, Valjan's knowledge of Italian history and culture is very evident. I swear this author must have some Italian blood in him, besides the fact that he looks Italian.
I found there was much more at stake in this novel (Naples is a dangerous place to investigate) and the team works really hard to protect one another. The book cover too perfectly depicts the dark side of Italy with its vulturous organized crime that is so ingrained it its society it affects the everyday lives of Italians.
Once again this is a complex plot with lots going on and by the middle of the book I was ready to see how it would all play out. There was a little bit of a lull at this point but then the suspense and danger picks up and we race to the end. Thank goodness for Valjan's sense of humor and love of food because it is always present in some way throughout the story. Bianca's online friend "Loki" plays a bigger role and we discover (or we think we know) the true identity of this person. Several characters are not who they seem to be which adds to the overall suspense of this novel.
There is tension between Bianca and Dante that manifested well the tension this team faces with this investigation. Only when they learn to rely better on one another did things look up. Valjan stays true to each character, and once again I felt like I knew them, like they were real people to me. Like I could hop on a plane to Italy and have lunch with them on the Amalfi Coast.
I was thrilled to find out as I finished this novel that there is a book five in the series! I don't know what the release date is for Corporate Citizen (the book description sounds fantastic) but I can't wait to read it and re-visit i miei amici Italiani (my Italian friends) as they courageously keep investigating crime activity connected to Italy and the US.
You can read my reviews of the previous books in this series. If you like crime fiction set in Italy, this is a series you will not want to miss.
Roma Underground (In Rome, where it all starts and the characters meet)
Wasp's Nest (In Boston, back to Alabaster/Bianca's hometown)
Threading the Needle (In Milan, capital of fashion and finance)
Note: This book is rated PG-13 for profanity in English and Italian, mainly f-words, religious profanity and some crude language. There is violence, but nothing graphic.
To read more reviews, please visit Gabriel Valjan's page at Italy Book Tours.
Gabriel Valjan lives in New England, but has traveled extensively, receiving his undergraduate education in California and completing graduate school in England. Ronan Bennett short-listed him for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize for his Boston noir, Back in the Day. His short stories and poetry have appeared in literary journals and online magazines.
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Disclosure by Laura Fabiani: Thanks to the publicist for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.