*may contain spoilers from previous books*
In the fourth installment of Gabriel Valjan’s Roma series, which he dedicates to Roberto Saviano, Alabaster Black, also known as Bianca Nerini, is in Naples and must deal with the crime syndicate known as Camorra, which Alexander Dumas says is the only real power that the region of Italy obeys. Opening the book is a list and description of dramatis personae, including Bianca herself, who once worked as a forensic accountant for the covert American agency named Rendition, not to mention her boyfriend Dante Allegretti, an investigator with a group called Guardia di Finanza (GdF), an Italian law enforcement agency that investigates illegal financial transactions, from money laundering to drug trafficking. Several agents from the group and Italian policemen play significant parts, as well.
The story itself begins with news of financial forecasting, with the initial chapter indicating that the Brooks murder, which happened in the third installment, was a public relations nightmare for the police force, with the Neapolitan crime syndicate Camorra, which is codenamed the System, under investigation. Bianca regularly communicates with the enigmatic Loki via text messaging, with his true identity possibly revealed in the latter portion. There are occasional historical notes such as the creation of the European Union following the Second World War due to the United States wanting a single point of contact within the continent. Overall, this is an enjoyable fourth installment of the Roma series, although there are occasional slow portions, and it can be easy to forget who’s who without referencing the character list. Even so, this read is worthwhile.
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.