Saturday, April 7, 2012
REVIEW: The Goodbye Kiss, by Massimo Carlotto
One thing you can say about the crime novels of Massimo Carlotto is that as dark and as violent as they are, they will make you feel better about your life, because nothing that's ever happened to me holds a candle to an ordinary day in the life of Mr. Carlotto's protagonists.
In The Goodbye Kiss we meet gleeful psychopath Giorgio Pellegrini, a career criminal who prances from one trainwreck to the next but always comes off without a scratch. The one-time revolutionary is back on the scene in Italy after some time in Central America and stint in prison and all he wants is respectability. To get it, he's willing and able to indulge in all manner of bloody, violent, nasty shenanigans. But the thing is, he's a lot of fun. Hilarious. I might be tempted to call him an unreliable narrator but the fact is he's scrupulously honest with the reader about who he is and what's he about, even when he's lying his pants off to everyone else.
Most of the book is taken up with a big heist he's planning, which he hopes will net him a hefty payday and bankroll his new "respectable" life. The only hitch is, he can't leave any witnesses. Along the way he plots with a veritable rogues' gallery of accomplices, amuses himself with various women who aren't always amused with him, and generally acts nice right up to the point where the bullets start flying and the bodies start piling up. It sounds grim, but it's a riot. And having just read Cooking with Fernet Branca I had to laugh when a bottle of the stuff turned up in this book under very different and for one character, highly unfortunate circumstances.
Which brings me to the only thing that doesn't make me laugh about Giorgio, and about Carlotto's books more generally- the way Carlotto's female characters are routinely degraded and tortured. I suppose one could say he's being all Stieg Larssonish about it, showing us the horrors perpetrated on women in order to expose them. So we get ample helpings of rape, prostitution, and other manner of violations against just about every woman in this and Carlotto's other books (at least the three I've read). But unlike Larsson, Carlotto's brutality isn't presented as fantasy porn. And the truth is, as badly as his women fare, they're no worse off than the men.
So, I really enjoyed The Goodbye Kiss. Giorgio is appalling- a horror of a human being. But Carlotto creates such a charismatic bad boy that his adventures are just a roller coaster good time. Turn off your inner feminist and come along for the ride!
This counts towards the 2012 Europa Challenge.
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FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.