“Black Souls” by Gioacchino Criaco

I received an advance copy of this from Netgalley and Soho Press in exchange for an honest review.

I mostly enjoyed this quite brief, but interesting account of a Calabrian “Black Soul”. The story itself was compelling and relates the realities and violence of the life of a member of the ‘Ndrangheta over a number of years. The events feel true to life and the various settings and locations feel real and show a side to Italy that many may be unaware of. It certainly is different from the almost glamorous representations of the mafia in films like The Godfather. This book demonstrates the violent reality although it tended to be rather descriptive at points. Sometimes it read like a list of events, as if it was written as a journal as opposed to a deeper narrative.

I wasn’t sure if it was the translation, but I found some parts of the book hard to follow. I also felt that it was impossible to really get a feel for any of the characters, Female characters, in particular, were basically non-existent. This is essentially a book about unapologetically bad people and I felt it was difficult to get a real sense of their motivations. I’m aware that it has been adapted into an award-winning film and I think the story probably works better in that medium.

Overall I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in organised crime or those wishing to learn more about a little talked about part of Italian history and culture.

In other news I’m still working my way through The King Must Die…I’ll get there one day.

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