Marco Buratti aka The Alligator is back in Massimo Carlotto's latest Italian noir novel Bandit Love, translated from the Italian by Anthony Shugar.
When Sylvie, the girlfriend of Marco's closest friend Beniamino Rossini is kidnapped, Marco, "Old Rossini", and Max la Memoria, must tussle with some of the new style mafias that have come to dominate Northeast Italy.
This is a short classic example of Carlotto's writing that leaves you slightly breathless and wanting more. The ending is abrupt and somewhat enigmatic, but the 177 pages are packed full of action, corruption, wisecracks, murders, unpleasant characters, politics, ideas and beautiful women.
" Is she another Lacan-quoting shrink like the last three?"
" No, I seem to have run out of those," he answered, resentfully. "She's a substitute teacher, a militant member of the worker's collective, divorced, no kids."
" Not only is she cute," he exulted. "She smokes, she drinks, she's not taking a creative writing course and she doesn't have a gym membership."
The first person narrative by Marco tries to direct the reader through a complex harsh brutal tale of revenge and double cross and triple cross. With all the various characters the plot was a bit incoherent as it involved the theft of narcotics from the high-security, armor-plated storeroom in the cellar of the Department of Forensic Toxicology at the University of Padua, and gangsters from every country in the Balkans and further afield.
Just as all the characters are villains of one degree or another, so no country comes out as beyond reproach in the tangled mess Europe is in.
In the meantime, the law -abiding citizens of Northeast Italy continued to entrust their elderly relatives to illegal-immigrant nurses and caregivers; their house were still being cleaned and their meals were being cooked by undocumented house-keepers.
This is a typical Carlotto book angry that the old Robin Hood style criminals, who won't deal in drugs or traffic women, have had to make way for the more vicious new breed from abroad. Angry at the treatment of women, and angry at the politicians and police who let it happen.
If only it were longer......
"We're old school gangsters, relics of the past that's gone forever. They'll eat us alive."