You may recall that I gave Donato Carrisi's debut, The Whisperer, a perfect score a few years back. Dubbed the Italian literary thriller phenomenon, I have remained on the lookout for anything else written by Carrisi. Read the first one in French, so I bought the French translation for this one as well. Even better, a sequel to The Whisperer titled The Vanished Ones recently came out in French and it's also availabe in the UK. Meant to read The Lost Girls of Rome last summer during my Middle Eastern trip, but sadly I didn't find the time. With most 2014 SFF releases leaving something to be desired these days, I elected that the time was just about right for a quality thriller.
The English title is kind of weird, considering that the original Italian title can be translated into The Tribunal of Souls. Such was the French title, which leaves me wondering exactly why the publishers for the English translation went for something so generic that has pretty much nothing to do with what the novel is all about. The same goes for the cover blurb, which totally overlooks the second main protagonist as if his own storyline was unimportant. From a marketing standpoint, given that Marcus is arguably the most important character of this story, I find this odd indeed. . .
Here's the blurb:
A grieving young widow, seeking answers to her husband’s death, becomes entangled in an investigation steeped in the darkest mysteries of Rome. Sandra Vega, a forensic analyst with the Roman police department, mourns deeply for a marriage that ended too soon. A few months ago, in the dead of night, her husband, an up-and-coming journalist, plunged to his death at the top of a high-rise construction site. The police ruled it an accident. Sanda is convinced it was anything but. Launching her own inquiries, Sanda finds herself on a dangerous trail, working the same case that she is convinced led to her husband’s murder. An investigation which is deeply entwined with a series of disappearances that has swept the city, and brings Sandra ever closer to a centuries-old secret society that will do anything to stay in the shadows.
Once again, the action occurs in Italy, in and around both Rome and Milan. As was the case with The Whisperer, a variety of sources were used by Carrisi to write this book, chief among them criminology and forensic psychiatry manuals, as well as several FBI papers regarding serial killers and violent crimes. With his homework done properly, Carrisi's second novel has an unmistakable genuine feel to it. As a former jurist specializing in criminology and behavioral science, the man truly knows what he's talking about.
With both French and Italian sharing the same roots, the translation was good. I was told that the English translation for The Whisperer wasn't that great, so hopefully the same cannot be said of the English version of The Lost Girls of Rome. A more literal translation will mean occasional odd turns of phrase, yet here's to hoping that it nevertheless captures the essence of the story.
The characterization was awesome. As was the case with its predecessor, a man and a woman are the principal protagonists. Sandra Vega, a forensic analyst, lost her husband the year before. Marcus is a man without a past. Coming out of a coma after being shot in the head in a Prague hotel room, he is told he's the only person who might find a kidnapped female student before she is murdered. Unexpectedly, their paths will cross and bring them to a crossroads where they'll have to choose between vengeance and forgiveness. During the investigation, a dark secret hidden by the Roman Catholic Church will be unveiled and is at the heart of all the disappearances and murders. I particularly enjoyed how flawed both main characters are and how their POVs create an interesting balance between them. The point of view of the hunter which occurs in a different timeline feels a bit discordant at first, but becomes more and more fascinating as one realizes just how it is linked to the other storylines.
Much like in The Whisperer, there is a thought-provoking theme underlying the entire book: The true essence of evil. Does it exist within all of us, latent and just waiting to be released? As engrossing as it is disturbing, Donato Carrisi's The Lost Girls of Rome is not as remarkable a read as Carrisi's debut. Still, it is a complex and multilayered thriller that hits all the right buttons. It's a clever work with plots and subplots forming a chilling tapestry, all of which culminating toward an ending that will shock you. Involving the Roman Catholic Church gives Carrisi's second novel a special feel that is akin to Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. Still, the novel is based on true law enforcement investigation techniques and the religious aspect of the tale only adds another dimension to an already complicated plot.
Overall, this perturbing work is everything a thriller is supposed to be. The Lost Girls of Rome is another page-turner that begs to be read. If you are looking for compelling and disturbing books delving into psychology that stay with you long after you have finished reading them, give Donato Carrisi a shot ASAP!