Winner of the Scerbanenco Prize for the best Italian crime thriller, The Deliverance of Evil is a masterful psychological thriller about an edgy policeman's personal evolution--or devolution--as seen through the lens of a devilish case that consumed him early in his career and continues to haunt him twenty-four years later.
With excitement over Berlusconi rise to power and Italy in a state of gleeful and frenzied anticipation over the national soccer team's improbable run to the 1982 World Cup, Italians are filled with hopeful feelings. The night before the big match, Elisa Sordi--an attractive eighteen year-old employed by the Vatican--vanishes. The case falls to a young, hedonistic post-Fascist officer named Michele Balistreri. Headstrong and ambivalent about spending his life as a policeman, Balistreri is annoyed to be interrupted during the festivities and takes the case lightly. But when Elisa's tortured corpse surfaces in the Tiber, Balistreri doubts he will ever be able to forgive himself for his inattention. After the man he arrested for the murder is exonerated, and tantalizing links to the Vatican and top right-wing politicians ignored, the case is never solved. Despondent, Michele spirals into drinking and depression.
Twenty-four years later Italy is victorious once again in the World Cup, but the nation has changed. The balloon of optimism from the Eighties has deflated, and the now-gloomy nation suffers under the arrogant and corrupt Berlusconi government. A weak economy and chaotic immigration policies that have inflamed racist sentiments provide a stark contrast to the last time Italy tasted sweet soccer victory. Disturbingly, more lax divorce laws have spawned a trend of "revenge" violence against women who try to assert their independence.
Suddenly Sordi's mother apparently commits suicide, and then a slew of female corpses begin to turn up all with a letter of the alphabet carved into their bodies. The apparent hate behind the murders causes Balistreri to realize that the case that has haunted for twenty-four years may be heating up again, and with a newfound sense of purpose he charges into his work: the opportunity to redeem the darkest part of his past.
The murders continue, and what initially seemed to be the work of a lone psychopath reveals itself to be part of something much bigger and more dangerous. Finally Balistreri realizes that the letters marking each victim are spelling out a chilling message.
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Roberto Costantini was born to Italian parents in Libya, where he spent the first eighteen years of his life. He was educated as a mechanical engineer, and also earned an MBA from Stanford University. After a thirty-year career working for American companies in many different countries, he is now a manager of the LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome, where he also teaches Leadership and Negotiation in the MBA program. The Deliverance of Evil is his first novel and the first in a planned trilogy, the second of which will focus on Michele Balistreri's adolescence in Libya during the rise of Gaddafi.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
On the referee’s final whistle, tens of thousands were already in the streets. In a few minutes the traffic was jammed solid, people sitting on car roofs shouting with joy, waving flags, sounding air horns, and beating drums. Columns of red, white, and green smoke were everywhere; the night was painted with the national colors.
Amid this deafening racket, the telephone rang. While Angelo went to answer it, I had an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. Alberto looked at me.
“If she hasn’t showed up, you’d better get over there right away.”
His tone was calm, but forceful, leaving no room for argument. It was the same tone my father used when I was little. You must learn to be more responsible, Michele.
“The cardinal says we have to get back there with the office keys.”
Angelo was less drunk now, and more worried.
It was no longer possible to go in the car with the uproar unleashed on the streets, but the complex was fairly close by, so we walked through the celebrating crowds, pushed and shoved by everyone and pushing and shoving everyone back in turn. It was a ridiculous situation: in the middle of the most unbridled joy, there we were like two drunken branches battered left and right in the wind.
It took us twenty minutes. I was in a state of near delirium about the glorious victory and the probable hook-up with Cristiana. The thought of Elisa only crept in every once in a while.
Cardinal Alessandrini and Elisa’s mother were waiting for us. She looked hopeful. We went straight to Building B. Elisa’s window was closed, though the flower still sat on the windowsill. Alessandrini was very tense; Angelo was white as a sheet. The office door was double-locked, as it was supposed to be. Angelo’s hand trembled from tension and alcohol as he opened it. I told everyone to stay out, but the cardinal objected.
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