THE FEW opens with a Roman detective being asked to look into the death of a young man. He’s not officially assigned to the investigation but the request is on behalf of someone important so Detective Leone Scamarcio inserts himself into things as best as he can. But it’s not long before that investigation languishes – or is set aside at any rate – and the same detective is sent to the island of Elba to look into the disappearance of a child. Most of the novel’s disparate elements eventually get wrangled into a coherent story but there are dangly bits left hanging so it’s not the book for readers who disapprove of loose ends.
Just as I have a kind of unofficial list of things almost guaranteed to make my reading heart swoon, there’s a corresponding list of things that can be relied on to raise my hackles and make me think worse of a book than I otherwise might. One of these is an overabundance of hinting around the edges of things and I’m afraid THE FEW had rather a lot of this going on. For example we learn early on that our protagonist is the son of a mafioso and that “something” happened a year earlier that made Scamarcio’s colleagues look askance at him. The “something” is mentioned multiple times and is clearly defining Scamarcio’s thinking and behaviour but I’d just about given up caring to know what it was by the time we are fed more information. This kind of teasing bores me.
Leone Scarmacio is an interesting character though. The mere fact that someone has turned his back on the family business in a public way is intriguing but he is still struggling with that decision and at least once turns to his old connections for something that official channels can’t provide. The requisite (for a fictional cop) personal demons are a bit different than usual (his drug of choice for example is weed rather than alcohol) and there is potential there for him to become a compelling series star.
For me THE FEW has fallen prey to the tendency for debut novels to cram too much story in between the covers. This is understandable but still annoying and I guess it remains to be seen if the author can reign this in for future installments. Still there are things to like. The author – who is English but has spent time living in Italy – did a good job of depicting the setting (though Scarmacio’s English is peppered with very British slang which jars with someone who learned the language living in the US) and I did enjoy meeting Scarmacio. But ultimately the book was pretty superficial in its handling of any themes it touched upon. Power corrupts. Italian politics is ****ed. You get the idea. Perhaps it was trying to straddle the boundary between outright thriller and something with more of a social commentary but, for me at least, it didn’t fully succeed on either front. I’m undecided about whether or not I will make the effort to catch up with Leone Scarmacio again but if pressed for a decision right now I’d probably say no.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher Scribe 
Length 336 pages
Book Series #1 in the Leone Scamarcio series
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