Alias, the new Inspector Gallo has landed, and I couldn’t have been more excited to receive it. I will say this upfront. I’m a sucker for genre books – specifically urban fantasy, whodunnits, and detective series. And thanks to Mark Camilleri finally dropping this fourth installment of the Gallo series, June is definitely the month of the polizjesk, as I like to refer to Maltese and Italian detective series.
I’ve been a fan of Gallo since the very first book, Prima Facie, which introduced us to the complex world of the charismatic Inspector. Fifty shades of grey is a phrase that springs to mind, but don’t get your panties in a twist – the phrase has nothing to do with the vanilla soft porn it has become sadly associated with, in the collective imagination, and everything to do with the conflicting principles, ideologies and characteristics of the infamous Gallo.
Perhaps Camilleri’s biggest triumph with the Gallo series has been that of creating such an intriguing, torn and multi-faceted main character. Gallo is not your classical black and white hero. There is nothing straightforward about his character and, while the trope of the detective torn by inner conflict, skirting the edge of the law to catch his villian, may be a well-worn one, Camilleri uses it to splendid effect, creating a Gallo that easily seduces with his only too-human flaws that we all relate to.
Gangland murders, serial killings and sexual violence
This fourth installment is no different, as we are introduced to a strong plotline that tests Gallo’s loyalty, friendships and personal relationships to the core. A string of gangland-like executions (somewhat reminiscent of real-life events) and serial killings provide the setting for what is essentially quite the shocking main murder.
Camilleri’s prose does not spare the imagination, providing just enough disturbing detail to acquaint us with the precise brutality of what has unfolded, while leaving us with enough questions to provoke our minds into filling in the blanks.
The cast of regulars from Gallo’s turbulent past pitch in, in some form or fashion, and I have to say that Camilleri masterfully weaves in subplots and valuable flashbacks that tie into the previous books, making us readers feel like we are part of Gallo’s journey, as eager to uncover more of his private life as we are to uncover the identity of the killer.
I do have some trigger warnings for the more sensitive readers. If I had to pick a bone, it would be the depiction of a scene involving sexual violence, where I felt certain details to be extra and that allusion might have served the purpose just as well. But this is, of course, more of a personal preference.
Gallo’s fourth adventure is a superbly addictive story that does honour to the genre and will undoubtedly delight fans of the giallo, keeping them guessing till the end while providing endless scope for theories and discussion. I am sure we will see Gallo continue thriving in the tradition of Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano and the like.
For more book reviews, check out Trevor Zahra’s Sempreviva, Il-Manifest tal-Killer or winner of the EU prize for literature Kissirtu Kullimkien.
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