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The Deliverance of Evil [Hardcover]

Roberto Costantini , N.S. Thompson
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 11 2014 A Commissario Balistreri Mystery
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.

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"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

About the Author

Roberto Costantini was born to Italian parents in Libya, where he spent the first eighteen years of his life. He was educated as a mechanical engineer, and also earned an MBA from Stanford University. After a thirty-year career working for American companies in many different countries, he is now a manager of the LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome, where he also teaches Leadership and Negotiation in the MBA program. The Deliverance of Evil is his first novel and the first in a planned trilogy, the second of which will focus on Michele Balistreri's adolescence in Libya during the rise of Gaddafi.

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Most helpful customer reviews
By Alison S. Coad TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
At the beginning of "The Deliverance of Evil," by Roberto Costantini, it is 1982 and Italy is in the World Cup finals; excitement in Rome couldn't be higher as a result. Police Captain Michele Balistreri is no exception, and when a pretty young woman goes missing on the night of the final, he is inclined to be dismissive; she probably just went off with a boyfriend that her parents don't know about, after all. Some days later, however, her body is found and Balistreri begins investigating some powerful people who may be involved. His discoveries are intriguing but not conclusive, and the case lingers, unsettled. Fast forward to 2006: Balistreri is now a police superintendent in charge of crimes involving immigration in Rome, who is called upon to investigate the rape and murder of a young student and the disappearance of a young Roma prostitute. Could they be connected? And how might they relate to the never-solved case from 1982? Balistreri must navigate the convoluted political waters of Roman policing and society to find out the truth.... To be honest, I only read about half of this novel before giving it up. It's not that the story was so difficult or the writing was bad; it was that Balistreri is one of the most unlikable lead characters I've ever run across. In the 1982 section, he's a young man filled with arrogance and testosterone; his attitude and behaviour towards women is deplorable and his political leanings (neo-fascist) even more so. In the 2006 section, he's an antacid and anti-depressant devotee, full of pity for himself and rather abhorrently pathetic. I just really really didn't like him, and I decided that life is too short to waste some of it reading a book whose protagonist I can't stand. As a result, I have no idea how the story ends; you'll have to look it up for yourself if you are interested, and I wish you luck.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  50 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sprawling & over-ambitious crime suspense novel Feb. 10 2014
By S. McGee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Many of the factors that other reviewers had noted as problematic for them are ones that don't tend to bother me that much. Length? Whatever. Some of the best novels I've read are 500 pages or more. Gritty, noir-like atmosphere? Sure; I've enjoyed lots of Scandicrime, not to mention Val McDermid. Unlikeable protagonist? Absolutely; bring him/her on. That just introduces a great layer of complexity into the plot.

What I dislike, however, is an author whose plot feels so out of control that I am constantly left bewildered and trying to puzzle things out. Costantini kicks this off with 150 pages revolving around an unsolved 1982 tragedy: the violent murder of young Elisa Sordi, a beautiful woman whom our main character, Roman cop Michele Balistreri, has lusted after and whose murder he fails to solve. Then we lurch forward in time, to 2005/2006, and meet Balistreri (whose tale is now -- inexplicably -- being told in the third person rather than the first person) trying to solve a series of other deaths. We're supposed to believe he feels guilty because he's jaded and exhausted -- but guilty about what? The author never makes this convincing. The number and nature of the crimes and suspects lead us all over the place, so I began feeling just as jaded as the fictional Balistreri, although my aversion to the tale could be directly linked to the lack of focus and uneven pacing. Every time I thought to myself, aha, this latest twist means that somehow these sprawling narratives will be tied up and we'll follow an interesting course to the end, the result was disappointing.

Eventually, I simply became fed up. I finished reading, but nothing in the solution -- which involved a lot of last minute twists that I find neither interesting nor convincing -- made me change my overall view of the book. I think you'd have to have a LOT of tolerance for implausible plot twists, and considerable patience as Balistreti agonizes over this, that and the other (can't really elucidate without offering up spoilers) to really enjoy the book. The author introduces characters at the drop of a hat, while others vanish from the narrative completely, even when they seem to be developing personal relationships with Balistreti's team.

Apparently, this is the first volume of a trilogy. If I do pick up a subsequent volume, it will be out of curiosity at the library; I don't want to be in a position where I have to read through another long and tedious crime novel (the latter adjective SHOULD be an oxymoron) simply because I have to review it. 2.5 stars, rounded up only because somewhere at the heart of this tome is an intriguing 350-page mystery just itching to get out.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ruthless murderer? What this book needed was a ruthless editor! July 5 2013
By Sue Kichenside - Published on Amazon.com
This protracted police procedural is bookended by Italy's two World Cup wins - a neat idea on which the author, rather maddeningly, fails to capitalise. The book opens with the first cup win in 1982 when we are introduced to Balistreri, a good-looking hard-ass cop who's into smoking, drinking, poker and sex. A neo-Fascist in his troubled youth, Balistreri isn't the most likeable of characters. When a beautiful young woman (is there any other kind in these books?) goes missing, the brash Balistreri fails to take the case seriously - until the girl turns up dead.

We then flash forward 24 years to Italy's second win. Now weary with age and guilt, Balistreri has mellowed into an altogether different man. Further murders of women are being committed and he is convinced they are all linked. The narrative then drones on relentlessly with a skein of ridiculously far-fetched plot complications and pseudo-political digressions. Unfortunately, Balistreri lacks the charm of a Montalbano to carry this off and I found myself skipping lines, then paragraphs and then whole pages. When I reached the end, it felt like deliverance indeed.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A different sort of detective novel Jan. 4 2014
By Gaby at Starting Fresh blog - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I usually enjoy detective novels set in unusual times and places so I was looking forward to The Deliverance of Evil set in Rome during the two victorious Word Cup finals. The main protagonist is an unusual character and not particularly sympathetic. When we first encounter Michele Balistreri he's one of the youngest chiefs of police in Rome and assigned one of the wealthiest and safest districts. He's from a wealthy and well connected family and has strong ties to the rightwing conservatives and the intelligence services. Unlike most fictional detectives, Balistreri doesn't take his work seriously and instead occupies his days flashing his car in restricted areas, picking up beautiful women, and drinking.

When a beautiful young woman disappears during the July 1982 World Cup finals, Balistreri disregards the parents' concerns and focuses on the regulations that allow him to put off responding. When his lack of a response proves to have disastrous results and Balistreri realizes just how much his inaction cost the young woman, her family and the family of the person that he'd accused, the police chief is devastated.

In 2006, when Italy competes for the next World Cup title, the mother of the disappeared girl commits suicide and other young girls have been found tortured and murdered. A much changed Balistreri takes it upon himself to try to solve these new murders and the old murder that he left unresolved.

The young Balistreri is chauvinistic and a distasteful character, the older version is humbled but not particularly likable. The story is long and complex with unusual characters. There are excellent twists if you read until the end. Unfortunately, I found the book hard going and nearly didn't finish it.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could not get thru it. Main character was boring and unappealing. Dec 27 2013
By IRG - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I'm a fan of mysteries and crime stories set in Italy so I was hoping that this book would deliver a compelling tale. Alas, not the case for me. Big books don't scare me but books like this one, that need editing, drag on and on without any real plot development and whose characters are anything but interesting, well, I'm not willing to waste any more of my time.

I got half way thru and just said: No, can't do it.

Maybe this book delivers, in the end. Clearly, it did for some readers. Not for me.

More than the need for editing, to me, was the need for a main character who was interesting and held some appeal. Perhaps I'm spoiled by Donna Leon's Brunetti and the wonderful Inspector Montalbano stories by Andrea Camilliari.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars convoluted detective novel Feb. 8 2014
By M. Tanenbaum - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I enjoy reading detective novels set in other countries and other times and was looking forward to reading this one. Perhaps you have to be well versed in Italian culture and politics to really enjoy this one (I have visited Italy several times and speak the language so I thought I'd enjoy it) but I have to say I found the plot of this novel so convoluted and the characters not very interesting. I read about half of it and never finished it because I lost interest in the story.
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