A Different Bronx Tale

A conspiracy that involves Fascists, Nazis, the Vatican, and the mystery starts in the Bronx.

Conspiracy theories coupled with international intrigue make for a compelling premise. Frank Carbone, a weekend drinker, is helpless as he watches his nephew Willie fall from his third-story apartment one night. The reader learns in the first few pages HOW the crime was committed. The reasons WHY and other details are the subject for the remainder of the novel. The subsequent investigation into the boy’s fall, which he survives, unleashes a series of discoveries for the uncle and the two detectives on the case.

British intelligence. Nazis on the run to South America and to remote corners of Europe. Nazis in need of transit papers. Nazi hunters in pursuit. A Vatican official, who may or may not be ordering assassinations, is the titular ghost.

As far-fetched as any of this might have sounded to someone in 1958, when the story starts, the stark reality is that several strands of the plot are drawn from authentic history, and the author named names. It takes a deft hand to handle a convoluted plot with so many moving parts, more so to thread moral ambiguity that accompanies controversial topics such as extrajudicial justice. Michael Elkins’s Forged in Fury is an example of a narrative about Nazi hunting and reprisals. Dr. Kellerman is not venturing into le Carré territory because his Frank Carbone is a flawed working-class mensch and not an operative in the intelligence community.

While I applaud and stand in awe of any author willing to tackle an ambitious project of this magnitude, I had problems with the writing. Some of the dialog read like reportage or an information dump. I doubt that a clinician – and the author is a mental health professional – would cite The Count of Monte Cristo as an example of Locked-In Syndrome. For someone in 1958, a better example would’ve been Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or ALS. A minor quibble, but serious suspension of disbelief is required of the reader to think that Uncle Frank tags along with the detective as they uncover clues, or within earshot as Detectives Davis and McIver question suspects (one is Spanish and the other, German, who speak pidgin English). I did find it hard to believe that two alleged assassins would cave easily. There is also one female character in the novel, Gloria, who is always described and her information is always reported because she never speaks.

My arguments with the story set aside, I continued to read and finish the story because I was interested in learning how everything worked out for Frank, Willy, and the detectives. There is talent, however inexplicable, in having a reader refuse to quit.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for an honest review.

About gabrielswharf

gabriel’s wharf is a blog on the random thoughts and writings of author Gabriel Valjan. His stories continue to appear online and in print journals. Winter Goose Publishing publishes his Roma Series.
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