I wanted to give this book a really great review, but I find that I just cannot overlook some problems that I encountered as I was reading the novel. It was a good mystery and I never did guess how the ending would be played out, and that is pretty extraordinary. I am not often that much in the dark about how a book would be wound up by the author. He stayed with his, or rather, Stan’s obsession for Lina right up until almost the end.
Why did I not absolutely love this book? I really wanted to. First, I had to read the first chapter three times to understand who was who and what exactly was happening in the opening pages. The reader has no idea why Hal and Stan are arguing, or who they are arguing about. Nobody ever figured out about who hurt Hal. He was too disposable. I didn’t even figure out that Tess was a cat until my third read of the first chapter. I was that much in the dark about what was happening.
On to Chapter 2 and the setting and narrator was completely different. Very confusing. I am all for using the in medias res technique, but a bit of explanation by the author was needed here to help the reader along. In the last chapters of the novel, there was another strange shift in time from the mountain town where Stan again plans to kill Lina and John back to Bologna a few weeks before the action in this scene. There were no clues that LoCicero was shifting time and location yet again.
A few times, the author used some odd terms such as “wreck” when the word should have been “wreak,” as in wreak havoc. Another instance was the word “loathe” which means to hate something, when the proper term was either “loath” or “loth.” The phrase was “nothing loathe” and that was incorrect. These are the two that annoyed me, but there were others.
The subplot that has John, Lina’s lover suffering from prostate cancer was completely extraneous and unnecessary, in my opinion. It did nothing to move the plot along and could have easily been omitted.
The biggest sin, though, was in character development. I would have loved to have learned more about who Stan was and what turned him into a cold-blooded killer. Why did Lina suddenly put aside her scruples about killing Stan, when she had so completely resisted it before? What about John’s wife. What made her an alcoholic? Some of the other characters like the priests in Michigan and John’s friend in Chicago and Lina’s friends seemed so interesting to me. I wanted more.