The root of all evil, Roberto Costantini

We met Michele Balistreri in Roberto Costantini’s last book The deliverance of Evil. Here we had a policeman who made a great mistake during a case in 1982 and who tried to solve this years later. In this books there are sometimes references to Michele’s childhood in Tripoli, but nothing much more is told.

In this second book of what is to become a trilogy, we get to know Michele Balistreri better. We meet him in the sixties in Tripoli, when Libya was still an Italian colony. Michele’s father was one of the richest businessmen in Tripoli and this gave Michele quite some influence with his peers. Still, he does not really like his father and the way he thinks money is the most important thing. He feels contempt to the shady deals his father makes and the way he even betrays Italians if he has to. Michele feels better connected to his grandfather and mother, who still believe Mussolini was betrayed by his own people.

In 1969 Michele has to deal with three things. Nadia, the sister of his two friends Achmed and Karim is found murdered, his mother dies and Khadaffi takes over the country, expelling all Italians. Michele has to go to Italy, although he does not want to be there. He vows it will only be for a short time, then he will come back to Africa.

However, in 1982 we still find him in Italy. He is by then a police officer in Rome. The first case that went so spectacularly wrong is from the previous book is just over. Michele is completely fed up, he hates all fathers, all women, all priests, all politicians, all communists, all Italians and especially everybody who is stupid enough to get murdered so he has to spend time solving the case.

Then a girl from Argentina is found murdered and there are similarities with Nadia’s murder, all those years ago. To solve the cases, see the connections and find the root of all evil, Michele must dive into the past again.

Roberto Costantini managed to make Michele Balistreri a very unpleasant person, you still feel for. Despite his indifference and his anger he still had certain character traits that you can admire, such as a strong sense of honesty and justice. Michele Balistreri doesn’t bullshit and he does no deals. And when he is convinced he should do something, he is determined to do it, despite the danger for himself. And you understand where his anger comes from, even though the anger takes a not very pleasant form.

The root of all evil gives an interesting insight in the way of living in Tripoli in the sixties. I especially liked how it makes you understand Michele better. His background and youth is told in detail, but it never gets boring. This is because it not only describes the case, but also the main character. The case itself was also quite good, until the end I did not know what had happened.

In short, a very intelligent and well written thriller again, and I am very happy there will be a third book to look forward to.

Original Italian title: Alle radici del male
Published in 2012
An English translation will be available in August 2014.