Winter Goose Publishing
Published Nov 23, 2012
Trade paperback, 294 pages
In the highly anticipated sequel to Roma, Underground, Bianca returns to the U.S. for her former employer, the covert organization Rendition, to investigate Cyril Sargent and Nasonia Pharmaceutical. Although ambivalent about the assignment and uneasy about her online “friend,” Loki, she is enticed into researching what Sargent is doing with insect genetics that might upset the world of cancer research and treatment. Old friends Farrugia and Gennaro uncover a twisted conspiracy from their past and join Bianca in Boston where they will experience conflicted loyalties, question allies, and confront uncertain enemies, as they’re drawn into the wasp’s nest.
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani
After reading Roma Underground, I couldn't wait to read the sequel Wasp's Nest. I was not disappointed. If Valjan was brilliant in the first book, he was even more so in this one. The plot is suspenseful and once again makes the reader question government conspiracies, secret organizations and police protocol.
Alabaster Black a.k.a. Bianca Nerini (by the way, her Italian name is a play on words of her English name) decides to leave Rome to go back to Boston. This was a painful decision because in so doing she also left Dante, the man she was in love with. But the call to take on another case by Rendition, the covert organization she was running from was too tempting for her analytical mind as she needed to prove to herself she did not inadvertently cause the death of Robert Strand through the work she did for them.
This time she is investigating Nasonia Pharmaceutical whose research on wasp genetics could lead to cancer eradication at the source. There is a lot of technical and scientific description in this novel and although I didn't always understand it, it just made me realize how brilliant Valjan is to come up with such complex and intelligent subjects and plots.
As is his trademark, Valjan's description of things, places, people and situations are vivid. This time the setting is Boston and the author's knowledge of the city's history, its culture, and its citizens is evident. However, his love for everything Italian comes through clearly in this novel too because it is infused with Italy's dishes, culture, expressions, the Mafia and the Italian characters Gennaro and Farrugia from the first book. Oh, how I love this duo!
Once again, the narrative has humorous moments, especially when the friends get together. I fell in love with the cast of characters even more. They are so real that I feel like they actually exist. Strand who was introduced in the first book is back in this one, but he was portrayed differently this time and I had to adjust my view of him. "Loki" who is Alabaster's mysterious computer contact is even more of a mystery. The ending was very satisfying to me, bringing it all together, and I simply had to start reading the third book, which starts with a bang.
This is such a good series! Well-written novels that keep the readers on their toes and challenge their minds all while being wholly entertaining. I highly recommend you read the first book Roma, Underground where it all starts because many references are made to it in the series. If you love the Italian culture, well-developed characters and intelligent and suspenseful stories, then this is the series for you.
Note: This book is rated PG-13 for profanity, mainly f-words, religious profanity and some crude language. There is some 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.