Friday, 11 December 2015

Wot I'm reading: After The Godfather .... the Godmother!


It's a while since I read a Gerald Seymour. He's good! 

One of the Camorra families, the Naples Mafia, is ruled by a woman - the Godmother! - since her husband was jailed. Their sons already have roles in the family business: protection, construction deals, toxic waste disposal. Immacolata, their daughter studying in England, turns against the family after a humiliation at a friend's funeral. The Carabinieri whisk her into witness protection and arrest her mother and brothers. 

Ima's English boyfriend Eddie, unaware of her family's gangland connection, ill-advisedly goes to Naples to find her. Then a freelance security guy, Lukas, has to go looking for Eddy. Seymour's 'formula', best seen in his stunning novels set in the Middle East's war zones, is to follow several strands of a story and then slowly and suspensefully pull them together towards an excruciatingly tense confontation. He does this here, brilliantly.

There's a chilling scene towards the end when Immocalata's minders take her to visit her parish priest in Naples. Far from granting her absolution he denounces her betrayal of her family: "the majority of Neapolitans take pleasure and pride from the reputation of their home as the centre of the western world's most successful criminal conspiracy."

This multi-stranded story is told from perhaps too many viewpoints (including not only the Godmother but the clan's Founding grandmother and grandfather), but Seymour brilliantly evokes not just the sights and smells of Naples' slums but also the culture of deference and fear that stalks every one of the city's streets; the Camorra families rule the city totally and ruthlessly. Like John Le Carre, Gerald Seymour elevates the thriller to the level of serious literature. This is up there with The Godfather in the annals of crime fiction.

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