The Namesake’ is Irish writer Conor Fitzgerald’s third book with Police Commissioner Alec Blume as the lead. This part crime thriller, part police procedure drama focuses mainly on the workings of Ndrangheta, a crime syndicate based out of Calabria, Italy, which, in the author’s own words ‘ is the most powerful mafia in Europe, not just in Italy’. The world of organised crime is one of power, honour, loyalty, adherence strict hierarchy and vendetta and The Namesake’ tells the readers a tale of all these.
The murder of an insurance firm employee and namesake of magistrate Matteo Arconti’s comes as a warning from the Ndrangheta family and it is up to Blume and his partner and romantic interest Caterina to follow this lead and put an end to the family. Blume hands over the investigation to Caterina and her team and sets on a mission to lure the mafia boss out from the untouchable location he operates from. The task is no easy one as Ndrangheta’s power isn’t limited to the city of Rome. Can Blume take on this all- powerful family, governed omerta - the code of silence - and notorious for its brutality?
Being an avid fan of crime fiction, it hardly bothered me that I knew nothing about Blume and what he did in The Dogs of Rome and The Fatal Touch.
I delved right into The Namesake. It was confusing initially with the first few chapters involving different characters, dealing with seemingly unrelated incidents taking place in different locations. But that’s how crime writers like to start to make an interesting and suspenseful read and there are plenty of unpredictable twists and turns, making The Namesake an edgy thriller.
The author has managed to paint well the beauty of Italy and the country’s cultural intricacies. Fitzgerald has spent much of his life in Italy and this close connection with the country helps him in accurately depicting everything quintessentially Italian. He certainly has done extensive research on Ndrangheta and mafia families and this could be his reason to meander into dull details.
There are a few terms and acronyms that many readers may find foreign, and the writer is well aware of this possibility. The novel has an appendix, helping the readers to familiarise with anything strange. But there are times the novel gets tad confusing, especially because of the Italian judicial proceedings which it deals with extensively. Also, the workings of organised crime could be a little confounding, especially so as Fitzgerald deals in detail about the history of the ‘family’ and its intricate functioning. There are different sub-plots which sometimes seem to have no relation to the main plot. However, if you decide not to put the book away, the final chapters reward you with plenty of action and twists.
If you are a fan of the genre, do not hesitate to give Namesake a try.