The Deliverance of Evil

The Deliverance of Evil

2.6 3
by Roberto Costantini
     
 

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Winner of the Scerbanenco Prize for the best Italian crime thriller, The Deliverance of Evil is a masterful psychological thriller about an edgy policeman's personal evolution--or devolution--as seen through the lens of a devilish case that consumed him early in his career and continues to haunt him twenty-four years later.

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Overview

Winner of the Scerbanenco Prize for the best Italian crime thriller, The Deliverance of Evil is a masterful psychological thriller about an edgy policeman's personal evolution--or devolution--as seen through the lens of a devilish case that consumed him early in his career and continues to haunt him twenty-four years later.

With excitement over Berlusconi rise to power and Italy in a state of gleeful and frenzied anticipation over the national soccer team's improbable run to the 1982 World Cup, Italians are filled with hopeful feelings. The night before the big match, Elisa Sordi--an attractive eighteen year-old employed by the Vatican--vanishes. The case falls to a young, hedonistic post-Fascist officer named Michele Balistreri. Headstrong and ambivalent about spending his life as a policeman, Balistreri is annoyed to be interrupted during the festivities and takes the case lightly. But when Elisa's tortured corpse surfaces in the Tiber, Balistreri doubts he will ever be able to forgive himself for his inattention. After the man he arrested for the murder is exonerated, and tantalizing links to the Vatican and top right-wing politicians ignored, the case is never solved. Despondent, Michele spirals into drinking and depression.

Twenty-four years later Italy is victorious once again in the World Cup, but the nation has changed. The balloon of optimism from the Eighties has deflated, and the now-gloomy nation suffers under the arrogant and corrupt Berlusconi government. A weak economy and chaotic immigration policies that have inflamed racist sentiments provide a stark contrast to the last time Italy tasted sweet soccer victory. Disturbingly, more lax divorce laws have spawned a trend of "revenge" violence against women who try to assert their independence.

Suddenly Sordi's mother apparently commits suicide, and then a slew of female corpses begin to turn up all with a letter of the alphabet carved into their bodies. The apparent hate behind the murders causes Balistreri to realize that the case that has haunted for twenty-four years may be heating up again, and with a newfound sense of purpose he charges into his work: the opportunity to redeem the darkest part of his past.

The murders continue, and what initially seemed to be the work of a lone psychopath reveals itself to be part of something much bigger and more dangerous. Finally Balistreri realizes that the letters marking each victim are spelling out a chilling message.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
10/15/2013
May 1982. Italy has just won the World Cup. During the night of celebration, a young woman, the niece of the powerful Cardinal Alessandrini and neighbor to a monarchist senator, is murdered. The police captain in charge of the investigation, Michele Balistreri, is a brash womanizer who botches the case. Twenty-four years later, with Italy again on the brink of a World Cup victory, someone with ties to the victim has begun killing young women, marking each with a different letter of the alphabet. An older, chastened Balistreri leads his team of deputies as they try to solve a case that results in the deaths of nearly a dozen individuals and entwines Italian politics—particularly the issue of immigration—with human failings, especially the desire for vengeance. VERDICT A strong start, with an absorbing depiction of the arrogant Balistreri, leads by midpoint to a less than engaging muddle with far too many pawns on the board. Near the end, the disparate threads begin to take shape as a spider's web, but by then many readers may have abandoned the book. This first entry in a projected trilogy is recommended for those who don't mind keeping a chart of characters and who enjoy elaborate puzzles. [With a 150,000-copy first printing.]—Ron Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson
Publishers Weekly
12/02/2013
On the eve of Italy’s 1982 World Cup victory—the first of two national triumphs 24 years apart that bookend this commanding debut thriller, the first of a trilogy—Roman police commissario Michele Balistreri refuses to let the disappearance of ravishing 18-year-old Elisa Sordi, one of his best friend’s colleagues, derail plans for a night of drunken revelry. Days later, the discovery of Elisa’s tortured body on the banks of the Tiber will be but the start of a string of murders that, decades later, will endanger some of those closest to him—as well as the stability of the Italian government itself. Costantini spins a politically charged, Machiavellian tale of fiendish complexity that is longer and knottier than necessary. But the book’s underlying psychology—which, in an effort to explain the genesis of the kind of monstrous evil at the story’s heart, veers disturbingly close to blaming the victim—will likely be more problematic for some readers. Announced first printing of 150,000. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"The Deliverance of Evil is a remarkably dark thriller which starts against the backdrop of Italy winning the World Cup in 1982 and concludes in 2006 just as they are about to be victorious again. A vicious murderer who first struck twenty-four years earlier is waiting to kill again. The author combines the plotting and pace of international crime with the poise and prowess of literary fiction, striating the narrative with topical political insight"—Ali Karim, Shotsmag"

[Constantini] delivers compelling drama... the gripping strength of the novel lies in its passionate portrayal of a corrupt and criminal Italy, from seedy traffickers to the Vatican."—Marcel Berlins, The Times"

[A] tale of personal and political corruption, expediency and revenge engages... Costantini has created a fascinating protagonist, first seen as a thirtysomething womaniser with fascist sympathies, and then as an older, sadder and wiser man, bent on making amends for past mistakes."—Laura Wilson, The Guardian"

[A] commanding debut thriller.... Costantini spins a politically charged, Machiavellian tale of fiendish complexity."—Publishers Weekly"

Utterly compelling"—Peter May, author of The Blackhouse"

The engaging Italian police procedural provides the audience with a fascinating psychological look at how ug...—
"

Rich with fascinating political history, filled with brilliant psychological insight, and a nonstop thriller... Bravo!"— Jeffery Deaver, The October List"

Readers can immerse themselves in la dolce vita as Costantini's charismatic detective, Commissario Michele Balistreri, solves a complex mystery centered on the nature of evil.... Costantini tells an engrossing story of corruption and revenge, until near the end, when he kills off all the suspects, leaving little doubt as to the identity of the murderer."—Anna Creer, The Sidney Morning Herald"

In his debut Costantini has proven himself an absolute master."—Antonio D'Orrico, Corriere della Sera"

Crime stories offer a fine vehicle for state-of-the-nation investigations. Italy is more of a challenge than well-ordered Scandinavia, but Roberto Costantini rises to it with ease... sprawling, violent and beset by a tortured morality, this is a compelling vision of modern Italy."—Mail on Sunday"

Completely riveting... This is a take-no-prisoners view of a corrupt society and a guide on what it takes to survive and prosper. The detail of the police procedural is brilliantly managed and, as we get closer to the end, the thriller wattage increases with increasingly desperate police officers chasing their tails as bullets fly and a key person is kidnapped."—David Marshall, San Francisco Book Review"

Completely riveting... This is a take-no-prisoners view of a corrupt society and a guide on what it takes to survive and prosper. The detail of the police procedural is brilliantly managed and, as we get closer to the end, the thriller wattage increases with increasingly desperate police officers chasing their tails as bullets fly and a key person is kidnapped."—San Francisco Book Review"

An intricate and ambitious thriller that tells of our country and our times, of the tensions, madness, and its heartfelt humanity."—Elle (Italy)"

A promising debut... [a] complex crime novel that moves from savage murder to the political and social realities of contemporary Italy."—Kirkus Reviews"

The Deliverance of Evil is one of the most unusual (and successful) recent thrillers."—Antonio Gnoli, La Repubblica

Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-09
A long, complex crime novel that moves from savage murder to the political and social realities of contemporary Italy. Debut novelist Costantini's book appeared in his home country of Italy in 2011 under the title Tu sei il male ("You Are the Evil"), a somewhat more pointed statement than the "deliverance" of the English version. The evil is broadly distributed. Police captain Michele Balistreri is a young man who has no trouble betraying the neofascists whose cell he has infiltrated, even if he harbors a few neofascist sympathies himself. He's more interested in drinking, smoking and cutting a bella figura on the streets of Rome, and when, just after Italy wins the World Cup in 1982, a young woman turns up brutally murdered, he seems to regard it as an inconvenience. He takes his job infinitely more seriously when, a quarter-century later, Italy again returns to the championship and the bodies start popping up once more. Here, the story, already absorbing (though too long by 100 pages), picks up speed, even though Balistreri doesn't; he's world-weary to the point of exhaustion, cynical and dependent on antidepressants to get him through the day, but he's been suffering from guilt over his earlier callousness and is determined to get the investigation right this time. His inquiry takes him into some unlikely corners, from the Vatican to gypsy encampments, though he keeps circling back to suspicions he has been nursing for years. It helps to have a little knowledge of Italian politics to appreciate some of the subtleties of Costantini's story, as well as a nodding familiarity with the geography of Rome (and the fact, for instance, that the Hotel Hassler is the city's most elite). None of those things are necessary in order to understand the essential nastiness of the bad guy and the moral ambiguities of the supposedly good ones. A promising debut.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781623650032
Publisher:
Quercus
Publication date:
02/11/2014
Series:
A Commissario Balistreri Mystery
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
335,184
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

On the referee’s final whistle, tens of thousands were already in the streets. In a few minutes the traffic was jammed solid, people sitting on car roofs shouting with joy, waving flags, sounding air horns, and beating drums. Columns of red, white, and green smoke were everywhere; the night was painted with the national colors.

Amid this deafening racket, the telephone rang. While Angelo went to answer it, I had an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. Alberto looked at me.

“If she hasn’t showed up, you’d better get over there right away.”

His tone was calm, but forceful, leaving no room for argument. It was the same tone my father used when I was little. You must learn to be more responsible, Michele.

“The cardinal says we have to get back there with the office keys.”

Angelo was less drunk now, and more worried.

It was no longer possible to go in the car with the uproar unleashed on the streets, but the complex was fairly close by, so we walked through the celebrating crowds, pushed and shoved by everyone and pushing and shoving everyone back in turn. It was a ridiculous situation: in the middle of the most unbridled joy, there we were like two drunken branches battered left and right in the wind.

It took us twenty minutes. I was in a state of near delirium about the glorious victory and the probable hook-up with Cristiana. The thought of Elisa only crept in every once in a while.
Cardinal Alessandrini and Elisa’s mother were waiting for us. She looked hopeful. We went straight to Building B. Elisa’s window was closed, though the flower still sat on the windowsill. Alessandrini was very tense; Angelo was white as a sheet. The office door was double-locked, as it was supposed to be. Angelo’s hand trembled from tension and alcohol as he opened it. I told everyone to stay out, but the cardinal objected.

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