If you are squeamish, skip chapter 1.

The Master of Knots - Massimo Carlotto

I had never read any of Carlotto before discovering this book in his “Alligator” series. Marco, ex-con, now private investigator without a license, and bar owner sets out with two other ex-cons (well, Rossini is still an active gangster) to eliminate a gang of S&M degenerates.


Mariano Giraldi comes to hire Marco and his friends “Max the Memory” and Rossini, to locate his wife, Helena who has been kidnapped. She specialized in being a model for S&M photographs. The husband who had a relationship with a different submissive dared not go to the police for fear their lifestyle would become public and his business would suffer. The woman has been gone a month leaving little hope of finding her alive. Others then disappear as Marco et al realize they have stumbled on to an S&M blackmail ring and snuff-film maker.


There’s a subplot revolving around the G8 summit meeting in Genoa in 2001. The police engaged in some serious violence against demonstrators and many were later brought to trial. Max, a Free Trade advocate, goes to protest and is seriously injured. Obviously Carlotto is making a strong political statement.


The dizzying amounts of Italian Lira being thrown around dates the book since the Lira was replaced by the Euro in 1999-2002. When they pay 20,000,000 Lira as a bribe to a hooker, my head begins to wobble a bit. That aside, this is a fun, if inconsequential, little entertainment that shows a very dark side of Italy’s corruption. If you want something as dark but more literary, read Donna Leon’s books. They are both entertaining and literate. Carlotto suffers by comparison.


P.S. What a dreadful cover.