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Friday 27 February 2015
‘The Root of all Evil’ by Roberto Costantini
Tripoli, February 1958, and a young boy is watching TV with his family around him. What Michele Balistreri doesn’t know is that the tragedy that will rip them apart has already begun ...
This is the second in Costantini’s Commissario Balistreri trilogy, but instead of being a sequel to The Deliverance of Evil, it’s a prequel, showing us how the events of Michele’s childhood shaped his later life. At the start of the novel he’s ten, and we follow him through adolescence: his relationship with Libyian brothers Karim and Ahmed, their protection of their friend Nico, and his growing love for his American neighbour, Laura. The story is narrated by Michele, but his account of school, friends, parents is punctuated by the story of someone being tortured. The Libyian background with its racial and class tensions, its sudden incursion into war with Israel, is vividly drawn. Half-way through the book, Michele moves to Italy, and here too the reader becomes involved in the events and politics of the early 1980s. At 676 pages, it was a lengthy read.
The Deliverance of Evil has had rave reviews, and I think readers who enjoyed that will enjoy this one too. It didn’t work for me as a stand-alone – not having read The Deliverance of Evil, I kept feeling that apparently irrelevant minor events and characters had a later significance that I didn’t know, but which would have added to the tension.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor
Roberto Costantini was born in Tripoli in 1952. Formerly an engineer and business consultant, he is now a manager of the LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome, where he also teaches on the MBA program.
Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group. Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.