Pellegrini, the unforgettable hero of The Goodbye Kiss, has been living an ‘honest’ life for eleven years. But that’s about to change. His lawyer has been deceiving him and now Giorgio is forced into service as an unwilling errand boy for an organised crime syndicate. At one time, Giorgio wouldn’t have thought twice about robbing, kidnapping and killing in order to get what he wanted, but these days he realises he’s too old in the tooth to face his enemies head-on. To return to his peaceful life as a successful businessman he’s going to have to find another out…
With The Goodbye Kiss being one of my favourite crime thrillers of all time, I relished the opportunity of catching up with its mesmerising protagonist Giorgio Pelligrini in this new tale from Massimo Carlotto. Having been exonerated of a murder charge, and now running a restaurant in the guise of a respectable businessman, what I can promise you is that Pellegrini has lost none of his edge, despite seemingly living a blame free life and going straight. Do not be fooled. There’s about as much chance of him avoiding trouble, as there is of him entering the priesthood, and as his criminal cohorts try to pull the wool over his eyes and play him for a fool, Pellegrini decides the time is right to remind them of what a force he can be, “The time had come to remember who I once was, what I’d done to get ahead. I’d shot my best friend in the head, I’d betrayed, cheated, raped, robbed, and eliminated anyone who got in the way of my reaching my objective.” Pellegrini’s seemingly upstanding circle of business associates, reflect the inherent motif in Italian crime fiction, as being out for what they can get, be it politically or financially, and Pellegrini has been attending to the more carnal needs of his clientele through his involvement in sex trafficking. As he begins to uncover the betrayal and double crossing of his less than honest associates, the hardcore Pellegrini returns and his vengeance is brutal and exact, and Carlotto once again cannot be accused of pulling any punches in his depiction of Pelligrini’s swift and vicious revenge.
This is Italian hardboiled noir at its best, from the punchy dialogue, the great cast of characters and the simpering attentions of the spineless women who hang on Pellegrini’s every word or his rationed bouts of Giorgio-love. As one of his unfortunate women comments, “the only way to love you is to abandon yourself and plunge down into the abyss that you dig for every woman that lets you get near her.” He demeans and controls his wife, and amazingly she lets him, and embarks on an affair with his wife’s best friend, who is even more keen it would appear to be treated like dirt. And as for the only woman brave enough to try and cross him? It doesn’t end well. But this all adds to the gritty masculinity of the book which I think is the key to the success of Carlotto and others in this genre, and what I enjoy about these books. The bad guys are utterly bad, but totally compelling, and as much as you sit in judgement of them as a reader, there is a strangely alluring glamour to characters like Pellegrini that sucks you in, chews you up, and spits you out the other end. A slim but totally satisfying read.
Massimo Carlotto is one of the best -known living crime writers in Europe. In addition to the many titles in his extremely popular Alligator series, and his stand-alone noir novels, he is also the author of The Fugitive, in which he tells the story of his arrest and trial for a crime he didn’t commit, and his subsequent years on the run. Carlotto’s novel The Goodby Kiss was a finalist for the MWA’s Edgar Award for Best Novel.
(With thanks to Europa Editions for the ARC)