Published by RCS Libri / Rizzoli on April 15, 2014
Source: Open Road Integrated Media
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Naples is a city with two sides: the sun-kissed coast and the shadows of the back alleys. It is at once beautiful and full of suffering. It is the paradise of the devils.
This novel by Franco Di Mare is a mournful hymn of love for Naples and the compelling story of its eternal contradictions. A vivid and dreadful portrait of the city, setting the stage for a diverse cast of characters, from Carmine—a man with a double soul, a refined intellectual and a hitman—to the men who take part in a bloody showdown. The reporters, the housewives, the killers are all in some way tainted by the evil that inhabits the most beautiful gulf in the world.
I enjoyed the rather meandering quality of The Paradise of Devils. The story centers around Carmine Cacciapuoti, but skips around in time from his present, to his childhood, to defining moments in his life. Carmine is a lot like Naples itself. He’s a philosophical former scholar, who has become a hit man. His girlfriend Lena, a teacher, thinks he’s a computer salesperson of some type and he is trying to keep the two parts of his life, his home and his job, separate. Of course, you can only keep secrets like that for so long before the whole thing starts to unravel.
The book is translated from Italian and as far as I could tell it was done well enough. There are a couple of odd Americanisms, like Lena wondering if Carmine would say he was working with the Secret Service or FBI – of course not, he’s in Italy; that would be a stupid lie to tell. Carmine is many things, but not stupid. I don’t know why the translator used American institutions instead of just naming the Italian equivalent.
I like how we see the lives of the people who Carmine interacts with. We see Lena and her class of mostly spoiled, unmotivated kids as they explore the catacombs. We meet his boss’s girlfriend, a sexy woman who had big dreams. We meet the man who “trained” Carmine, a psychopath who enjoys the killing. Then there’s the journalist for the local paper, who picks up on the difference in Carmine’s killings and others around the city. I enjoyed seeing their lives all intertwined, to see how one’s decisions affect another.
We tour Naples too, a place I would love to visit one day. We see its beauty, its churches, its beach, the food, the shops. We also see its darker sides, the corruption, the rampant unemployment, the street gangs whose members are little more than children, those who sell “protection” and those who sell drugs.
I found Carmine’s story and the city itself engrossing. With its changes in time period and viewpoint, it’s maybe not the easiest book to follow, but it’s worth it. I was sad to see it end.