A call for help from an old friend lands Bianca and the crew back in Boston. On a timeout with Dante, due to revelations in the aftermath of the showdown in Naples, Bianca is drawn to a mysterious new ally who understands the traumas of her past, and has some very real trauma of his own. Murder, designer drugs, and a hacker named Magician challenge our team, and Bianca learns that leaving Rendition behind might be much harder than she thinks.
Today we welcome author Gabriel Valjan to StoreyBook Reviews. He gives us his insights about why he set his books in Italy. Very fascinating read!
I’ve been asked why I have set the Roma Series in Italy and not elsewhere. There is no doubt that my choice of country provides rich material for the writer. Whether Italy was Empire, a series of city-states, or at last united in 1861, it has given the world millennia of culture and history, splendid art, a republic and humanism. I choose Italy because it shares some not-so obvious similarities with the United States. I’m speaking in broad terms here.
First, The United States is not a democracy. Both Italy and the U.S. were founded as patrician republics. Both countries had an aristocratic class born of the mercantile class, unlike the British or French aristocracy, which drew its ranks from those who fought, the knights. Both Italy and the United States had profound regional differences. In America, those socioeconomic differences between an industrial north and an agrarian south would lead to the Civil War. Just as in America’s Gilded Age, northern Italy would have its own ‘capitani di ventura,’ venture capitalists who would control entire industries and territories. Southern Italy, where organized crimes started, would exist on and off again, with or without Sicily, as a united state from the Middle Ages to the Risorgimento. Unification came late to Italy in 1861; and yet the country, just as the United States, would emerge, after World War II, as one of the world’s leaders in manufacturing and scientific technology, with one glaring exception separating them: Italy had a viable Communist party. The Years of Lead, 1969 to about 1980, would exterminate that anomaly in Western Europe.
When Americans think of the mafia and organized crime, they think of glamorous movies such as The Godfather, with its emphasis on familial loyalty, honor, and silence. The reality is less Hollywood. The Camorra started around the time the Spanish occupied Naples. Did not Don Quixote have bizarre ideas about chivalry and honor? The Sicilian mafia began as hired enforcers to keep farmers afraid of landowners. Is there an American counterpart? Look to the Progressive Era and the violence between hired thugs and striking workers. Look earlier and the Democratic Party was synonymous with corruption and ward bosses.
There is one stark and fundamental difference between the two countries that I explore in the Roma Series, and that is the concept of society. While what constitutes ‘society’ in Europe is different from what we have in the U.S., I think it is more pronounced in Italy, which rates high in quality of life, and for long life expectancy. The ‘capitani di ventura’ may have faded into history, but in the U.S. the captains of industries and their corporations still affect every aspect of society, wielding inordinate power and influence, for better or worse. These imbalances breed crime at its worst, political activism and legislative reform at their best. The problem is when those in power, those captains of industry and their corporations, are the criminals.
American holds the rebel, the individual — the quintessential cowboy — in high esteem; it values the underdog; and yet, American society is Malthusian and Darwinian at its core, meaning fate is a function of individual choices. The Republican Party advocates the ‘Pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ philosophy life. I don’t know: Is this merely the Protestant idea of predestination dressed up in the Emperor’s New Clothes? Italy is a Catholic country — and Catholicism has its own tainted history — but the Christian ideal of looking out for ‘the least of your brothers’ does not mean that feeding them is encouraging the poor and less fortunate to remain poor and less fortunate. The ways Italy combats organized crime differ from the way the U.S. does – but that is another matter altogether.
ROMA, UNDERGROUND (Book #1)
Savvy forensic accountant Alabaster Black is hiding in Rome from her former employer, covert U.S. organization “Rendition.” While there under an assumed name she meets Dante, an investigator, erstwhile explorer and member of the Roma Underground, a band of amateur archaeologists who map the city beneath Rome. With Italian artifacts disappearing at an alarming rate, Alabaster and Dante search for answers and create a trap for the thieves. Through a mysterious online contact Alabaster learns she is being followed, and with her safety at risk she is forced to rethink her chosen alliances and discover hidden truths about herself.
“A provocative thriller with a riveting and surprising plot.” —M.J. Rose, International bestseller
“…the strong, captivating heroine and an allure of conspiracy and organized crime make this novel an undoubted success.” –Kirkus Book Reviews
“Conspiracy, double identities, car chases and espionage, all against the backdrop of magical Rome, with its great food and marvelous art history, make this an entertaining, intriguing read.” —Blogcritics Book Reviews in Brief
WASP’S NEST (Book #2)
In the highly anticipated sequel to Roma, Underground, Bianca returns to the U.S. for her former employer, the covert organization Rendition, to investigate Cyril Sargent and Nasonia Pharmaceutical. Although ambivalent about the assignment and uneasy about her online “friend,” Loki, she is enticed into researching what Sargent is doing with insect genetics that might upset the world of cancer research and treatment. Old friends Farrugia and Gennaro uncover a twisted conspiracy from their past and join Bianca in Boston where they will experience conflicted loyalties, question allies, and confront uncertain enemies, as they’re drawn into the wasp’s nest.
“Again, Valjan successfully conflates multiple sophisticated narratives that bring the past and present together, which the archaeological theme of the last novel also helps accomplish . . . Black is back and just as entertaining as ever.” —Kirkus Book Reviews
“…a compelling reading, action-packed and with intriguing characters. The plot had plenty of twists and turns, some surprising secrets, and it kept me on the edge of my seat, guessing until the very end.” —The Book Junkie
THREADING THE NEEDLE (Book #3)
Milan. Bianca’s curiosity gets a young university student murdered, but not before he gives her a file that details a secret weapon under development with defense contractor Adastra. Guilt may drive her to find justice for the slain Charlie Brooks, but she is warned by the mysterious Loki to stay away from this case that runs deep with conspiracy. Bianca must find a way to uncover government secrets and corporate alliances without returning Italy to one of its darkest hours, the decades of daily terrorism known as the “Years of Lead.”
“It is even more to Gabriel Valjan’s credit that with Threading the Needle he, as an American, was nonetheless capable of unusual insight into the Misteri Italiani, the Italian Mysteries, without taking any prejudicial standpoint, one way or the other, or putting the blame on anyone, but rather inviting readers to judge for themselves.” —Claudio Ferrara, Italian journalist and translator
“But after the first few pages, I knew I was committed to the end of the book … and would be reading the two earlier books…Characters, plot, ideas, background: In Threading the Needle, Valjan weaves it all into an international crime novel worth the read.” —Beth Kannell of Kingdom Books, a specialty mystery bookshop in northeastern Vermont.
TURNING TO STONE (Book #4)
Forensic accountant Alabaster Black has always been steps ahead of her former employer, Rendition, a clandestine and apparently lethal organization. Once the star investigator of financial crimes, she fled from the United States to Italy, under a new name: Bianca Nerini. She carries on her work with a group of trusted friends, although a mysterious contact by the name of Loki reaches out to her on occasion. In this fourth installment, Bianca is in Naples against the Camorra, a crime syndicate unlike the American or Sicilian mafia.
About the Author
Gabriel Valjan lives in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the author of the Roma Series, available from Winter Goose Publishing. Gabriel has also written numerous short stories and essays found online and in print.
5 winners get a paperback copy of CC
5 winners get an ebook copy of CC
1 winner gets whole set of Roma series in paperback (signed)
1 winner gets whole set of Roma series in ebook format
12 winners total
Print copies open to USA and ebooks open international
Giveaway ends Dec 17