An inspector calls in gripping Neapolitan thriller

Naples is a city used to terror. The Camorra run amok through its streets; drugs, violence and even murder are facts of life.

The Crocodile

Maurizio De Giovanni

(translated by Antony Shugaar)

Abacus, £8.99;

Kindle, £5.99

Locals have learned to turn their heads, because seeing too much can be the equivalent of signing your own death warrant.

So when a teenage boy who had recently taken to small-time drug dealing is shot in his head only yards from home, nobody looks too closely. Nobody, that is, except Inspector Giuseppe Lojacono.

Exiled from his native Sicily after being named as a leak by a captured Mafioso, and condemned to a barely active desk job, he is first on the scene and impresses the Assistant District Attorney, Laura Piras, with his powers of observation, instincts and willingness to think beyond the usual restricting boundaries.

Within a week, a second teen is dead, a girl now, with vague links to the first victim, and this is followed in short order by a third, the son of a prominent gynaecologist.

The method of execution is identical in all three: a point-blank shot to the head, all carried out mere steps from safety.

In all cases, the victim is the only child of a single parent, and the only clues are matching shell casings and tear-stained tissues found at each scene.

The police chiefs want to blame the murders on the Camorra, but the papers have taken a different slant, and proclaim this to be the work of a serial killer, The Crocodile, named because of the tissues and the apparent crocodile tears spilt for the victims.

Piras, in charge of the case, knows that her reputation, and her job, is on the line. Against the wishes of the powers-that-be, she returns Lojacono to active duty.

He is working on a theory that the intended victims of these attacks are in fact the parents, because “the only thing worse than dying would be losing a child”.

This, it seems, is the ultimate act of vengeance, and the Crocodile isn’t finished yet.

Maurizio De Giovanni made his name with a series that introduced the world to the morally unbreakable Commissioner Ricciardi and which portrayed the author’s native Naples during the increasingly fascistic years between the wars.

The result was a nine-book string of award-winning and widely translated best-sellers that established him as the most important voice in Italian crime fiction since Andrea Camilleri hit big with the Montalbano novels.

De Giovanni’s new leading man, Inspector Lojacono, has the potential to be something really special. Already, he is a multi-layered character, laden with a back story as yet only glimpsed at.

With the intricately-plotted first offering, The Crocodile, the reader has a chance to get in on the ground floor of a series that is certain to grow and grow.


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