Review: THE FEW by Nadia Dalbuono

TheFewDalbuonoFrontTHE 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 [2014]
ISBN/ASIN 9781925106121
Length 336 pages
Format paperback
Book Series #1 in the Leone Scamarcio series

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7 Responses to Review: THE FEW by Nadia Dalbuono

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    I’ve just read a book about Italian crime families and corruption etc. written by a foreigner who has lived in Italy and I was, frankly, a little bored and underwhelmed. I wonder if publishers think there is a market for this because Italy is such a popular holiday destination, or if they are trying to replicate the success of Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri.

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  2. It’s a shame, Bernadette, that this didn’t live up to what it could have been. It’s a great setting for a novel, and some good ideas and bits, as you say. I’m with you in not wanting to be left wondering about things, too.. Those little hints get annoying after a while. Nope – don’t think I’ll be running after this one in a huge hurry..

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  3. Reading your assessment has made me think about my manuscript and I’m wondering if I to have crammed too much in. I completely agree that repetitious hinting is annoying; it’s as if the writer doesn’t trust the reader to retain information. For someone like me who is attempting to write, it’s helpful to hear what puts a reader off a book or prevents them from buying the sequel. Whether this book is a great read or mediocre comes down to subjectivity. An agent needs to ‘fall in love’ with a book in order to represent the writer so out there is a literary expert who considered this book to be a best seller. Yet I’ve purchased a wealth of best sellers that didn’t rock my world just because the subject matter wasn’t my cup of tea or I didn’t warm to the style of writing or the characters and perhaps I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to enjoy it . Every reader, like a literary agent, wants to fall in love with a book and it’s disappointing when a book fails. I like your review, it felt balanced and like Margot I wont be clicking on Amazon to download but if I come across it randomly and I like the blog, I might give it a go. I apologise for using the ‘s’ word (subjectivity), it’s not an aspiring writer’s favourite term.

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    • thanks for stopping by and making such a thoughtful comment – I struggle as a an amateur reviewer to write even vaguely negative things about a book (actually that’s not true, I can write them easily enough but I struggle with the decision to press ‘publish’ once I’ve written them down) – especially a debut – I am not a writer but I do have some sense of the effort that people put into their writing and I don’t feel I have the right to be dismissive of that effort

      As for the S word…that’s OK to use…perhaps unfortunately there is no definitive test for what makes good or bad art and in the end it’s all opinion – some opinions are better informed than others but still no right or wrong – happily this means that other opinions are always available

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  4. tracybham says:

    If you ever read the second one and like it better, I might try this series. Although I definitely don’t like loose ends when a novel is done, so maybe I don’t want to go there at all.

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  5. Belle Wong says:

    I don’t like it when there are loose ends in a novel, unless those loose ends have to do with the secondary storyline and not the main mystery. If that’s the case I figure those loose ends will be addressed in the next in the series but otherwise, I really hate when it happens. And the hinting around about something but taking ages to come out with what that thing is? That drives me nuts. Especially when it’s worded in a way that makes me think, did I miss something here? and then I end up going back and scanning all the pages I’ve already read, only to see that no, I haven’t missed anything, and this is just a plot device to add suspense. It’s not a plot device that works for me.

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