Crime author Lorenzo Carcattera has used the history and traditions of his Italian background, as well its links to organized crime, as the basis of many of his novels. In THE WOLF, his latest, he kicks things up to a more contemporary and global orientation. It’s a daunting task and proves, as the old saying goes, that the more things change the more they stay the same.
Vincent Marelli, better known to friends and foes alike as The Wolf, oversees a massive empire that unites crime bosses across the globe. As a result there isn’t a business or industry that isn’t either controlled or mainly influenced by this vast network of organized crime. But all this power means Marelli must also control every waking hour of his life in order to protect his family and himself.
But in a moment of weakness, when he relents to his wife’s request and allows her and his two daughters to travel unprotected, a terrorist attack results in their deaths. Heartbroken and alone with only his 12-year-old son, Marelli calls together the leaders of the various global crime organizations.
Marelli proposes an all-out attack against the terrorist network. Fearing this is nothing more than an act of personal vengeance, the other crime bosses are hesitant. But when Marelli demonstrates how the terrorists threaten their various endeavors and sources of income, the bosses agree to his plan and use their formidable powers and skills to set in motion.
Carcattera opens the novel with listing of all the characters in an interoffice memo from the International Organized Crime Bureau. This lengthy dramatis personal warns of a complicated story with way too many players. Fortunately Carcattera focuses on only a small handful of these many individuals, allowing the memo to serve as sort of a quick-reference guide and reminder.
The idea of crime bosses all over the world uniting against violent and overly zealous terrorists is a fascinating concept. Sadly, it proves a bigger bite than Carcattera can chew. He can’t resist including details of the various crime organizations’ history, as well as the back-stories of their many leaders. As a result, when finally describing the actions of any individual group in the narrative he resorts to hasty and abrupt sketches that read more like newswire recounting.
When, however, the action focuses on Marelli, his closely held cadre of trusted associates, and their terrorist counterparts, the characterizations and drama become more personal and more intense. In these moments Carcattera reminds us of his novelist skills as the main players carry out their tasks in what appears like mutual cooperation, but simmers with currents of mistrust and suspicion. Unfortunately Carcattera seems to doubt his own strengths and relies too heavily upon ending chapters with overly dramatic statements or observations.
Yet, as Carcattera ironically proves, for all the contemporary sophistication and technological advances that allow these global crime bosses to work in fragile harmony, the forces that threaten them and their plans to defeat the terrorists are as old and pervasive as history itself – including pride, greed, envy, and, of course, vengeance.
If THE WOLF doesn’t quite succeed with what the plot promises, it still delivers many moments of suspense, effectively detailed action sequences, and moments of credible introspection, mostly from Marelli himself.
We need only turn on any daily news report to remind us that terrorism is a current, global concern. But Carcaterra’s latest reminds us that organized crime, while no longer the subject of headline stories, still exists and still exudes hits power over our daily lives. —Alan Cranis