Marco “The Alligator” Buratti, Italian private eye and the beloved creation of Italian author Massimo Carlotto, has quite a bit in common with Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the stoic lead special agent on CBS’ hit TV show NCIS: both men are fiercely loyal, they strictly adhere to a code of character, and they aren’t afraid of attractive women.
So sets the stage for another Alligator mystery from one of Italy’s most popular authors. Gang of Lovers takes us to Padua, Italy, where a distraught Swiss woman tells Buratti her lover has been kidnapped. But Carlotto thinks there’s more to the story and enlists help from his associates: Max the Memory, a large man with a large appetite for fine food, and Beniamino Rossini: “people who had made an enemy of that man had lived to bitterly regret ever tangling with him.”
Yes, the writing is heavy-handed, but this is noir: take it or leave it, sweetheart.
And while Buratti is a classic noir detective in every sense, he also has a clear set of standards when it comes to crime. And the new criminals taking over Italy disgust him: “When enriching yourself illegally means poisoning people and the places they live, devising latter-day slave trades, and working hand in glove with politicians, businessmen, and moguls of high finance, then free men with a conscience decided it’s time to leave the party.”
And this job is full of classic twists and turns, from dark alley shootouts to romantic evenings with a porn star turned barmaid. Gang of Lovers is a raucous, delicious ride.
The only misstep comes in the first chapter, when Carlotto jumps back in time to explain Buratti’s sour mood. Jumping to characters and plotlines from previous works is jarring, especially after such an engaging prologue.
But hold tight to The Alligator. Chapter two brings everything back into focus, and the rest of the ride is as pleasant and unexpected as a walk down a crowded Italian street. You never know who you’re going to meet – or who is watching.