Faletti, Giorgio - 'I am God' (translated by Howard Curtis)
I AM GOD by Giorgio Faletti, a hugely successful Italian crime writer, is the second of his books to be translated into English. This is a standalone, featuring New York police detective Vivien Light, and her attempt to catch a megalomaniac who has planned a bombing campaign in New York, that has already claimed several lives. The reader knows, from the beginning section of the book, information that Vivien doesn't, that these crimes are rooted in the difficulties experienced by a disfigured Vietnam war veteran in adjusting to post-combat life, with a strong grudge against those who forced him into volunteering for the army, but we don't know exactly how and who is carrying out the current crimes. As the investigation unfolds, Vivien is engaged in a race against time to find the bomber before he kills again.
In Vivien's quest to find the killer, she has to contend with a conflicted Catholic priest, Father McKean who has to consider whether to break the confidentiality of the confessional box, and disgraced former journalist Russell Wade, who has stumbled on an important clue, which he will only give to the police if they allow him access to the investigation. Her personal life is also challenging; she has a seriously ill sister, and a troubled niece, Sundance, who is living at Joy, a home run by Father McKean for troubled youngsters, after she turned to prostitution to fund a drug habit.
I found this a rather frustrating book. The author has an interesting concept, how the US would respond to a post 9/11 bombing campaign in New York, and the book certainly succeeds in terms of basic plotting, keeping the reader turning the page after a slow opening section, and keen to see how things will turn out. Unfortunately the competent basic storytelling is somewhat marred by three things: a very clunky writing style, which tends to tell in great detail, rather than show; a resort to cliché in characterisation, in particular wild child Russell Wade and his very wealthy family, and finally, a frustrating lack of realism in police procedure. I also felt the romance subplot was about as convincing as an eighties bonkbuster, possibly as I found Russell Wade rather more irritating and less heroic than intended; personally I don't think drink-driving is a particularly charming character quirk. The author's characterisation of Vivien Light was more convincing, as a hard working, feisty police officer. The author provides an unlikely, if appropriately surprising twist as to the identity of the perpetrator. Overall this book is a fairly average and undemanding thriller, not as good as the author's previously translated book, I KILL.
Laura Root, England