You would have to look hard in modern literature for a `hero' of a book to be quite so despicable as the central character in The Goodbye Kiss. He starts out idealistic enough. He and his young chum have joined the Red Brigade for idealistic reasons. When things go wrong and the police are on their trail, they flee to South America to join the guerrillas. While there, the central character, Giorgio Pellegrini, commits an act under orders from his commander that finally convinces him that idealism is for the birds and that from then on he's in it for himself.
And in it he is. He returns to Italy to face the music and, through a cynical deal, gets a short sentence. While in prison, he practices the exploitative skills that will stand him in good stead when he is released.
Pelligrini will commit any crime, including a series of cold, conscienceless murders, to get what he wants: respectability and a life of financial ease. Slowly but surely, he works his way up, a trail of blood behind him, until he is faced with an ultimate crisis to resolve.
It was, at times, difficult to bear the character's total lack of conscience. But his fanatical devotion to his own cause was mesmerizing. The novel shows a side of Italy not well known to outsiders and probably not to most Italians themselves. Whores, pimps, Albanian gangs, drug dealers, crooked cops populate the novel. Their world is one of power and betrayal.
Carlottto, who had personal familiarity with Italy's prisons, has achieved the pinnacle of noir novels. In spite of his moral deformities, you can't help rooting for Giorgio and be impressed with his manipulative skills. The one virtue that he possesses is courage. He takes risks, calculated ones, but knows that if he fails it will either be life in prison or a very certain death.
I recommend the book highly for its tense atmosphere, hard hitting prose and, most of all, a memorable character.