In the third entry of Gabriel Valjan’s Roma Series, which the writer dedicates to Claudio Ferrara and Dean Hunt, and opens with an Italian quote saying life should be lived and not looked at, sometimes cooked, reflected, or written, alongside another statement that Italy is the ancient homeland of doubt, according to Massimo D’Azeglio, Bianca feels responsible for the death of a young university student in Milan named Charlie Brooks, before whose demise she receives a secret file, and after which she seeks justice for his decease, with a mysterious individual named Loki urging her to stay away from the case.
The book, as mentioned, opens with the college student’s death, with protagonist Bianca Nerini still being untrusting, given her past experiences detailed in prior installments of the book series. Among those claiming responsibility for Charlie Brooks’ death is the anarchist political party and terrorist organization G9, with Italian policeman Farrugia further blamed for shooting men indiscriminately, and political elections forthcoming in both Italy and the United States, with the political differences between the two countries occasionally referenced. There are occasional historical notes, such as Fascist Italian despot Mussolini declaring the Vatican an independent state and Pinocchio author Carlo Collodi inspired by his initiation into a secret society.
Following the main text is an afterward by Italian journalist, author, and translator Claudio Ferrara about a period in his homeland’s history known as the Anni di Piombo, the Years of Lead, among whose several events was the assassination of Christian Democratic politician Aldo Moro, far-left terrorists being responsible for his death, which America had some involvement in, alongside a secret guerilla society known as Gladio and its equivalents in other NATO nations. Overall, the book is fairly enjoyable and sure to please those who liked past books in the series, the political and historical notes being its highlights, but there is mild tastelessness, for instance, in using the acronym AIDS to describe something other than the disease.
Gabriel Valjan lives in New England, but has traveled extensively, receiving his undergraduate education in California and completing graduate school in England. Ronan Bennett short-listed him for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize for his Boston noir, Back in the Day. His short stories and poetry have appeared in literary journals and online magazines.