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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Master of Knots

Massimo Carlotto

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To purchase The Master of Knots

Title: The Master of Knots
Author: Massimo Carlotto
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2004)
Length: 179 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: The Master of Knots - US
The Master of Knots - UK
The Master of Knots - Canada
The Master of Knots - India
Le Maître des nœuds - France
Il maestro di nodi - Italia
  • Italian title: Il maestro di nodi
  • Translated by Christopher Woodall

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Our Assessment:

B : excesses -- sexual and violent -- can be a bit much but are only small part of decent thriller

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 28/1/2005 Matthew Lewin
The Guardian A 8/12/2006 Laura Wilson
The Telegraph . 20/12/2004 Susanna Yager

  From the Reviews:
  • "An unusual outing indeed." - Matthew Lewin, The Guardian

  • "Graphic but never pornographic in its depiction of physical abuse, hard-edged, perfectly pitched and expertly translated, this is a truly thrilling read." - Laura Wilson, The Guardian

  • "What makes this book particularly interesting is the interaction between the three men, whose conversations reflect the author's own experiences and beliefs as a Left-wing activist who spent time in prison in Italy before being pardoned." - Susanna Yager, The Telegraph

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Master of Knots is another in Massimo Carlotto's 'Alligator'-series, featuring and mostly narrated by Marco Buratti, an ex-con hardened by his long (and unjust) prison stay who uses what he learned (and the contacts he made) in his sideline of working as an unlicensed detective. He also owns a club, outside Padova -- explaining: "I had bought it because I needed a place I could receive clients". Money isn't much of a problem, and he also has the help of some friends: old-school gangster Beniamino Rossini (who wears: "a collection of gold bracelets: one for every man he had killed" -- and who doesn't mind adding to the collection) and Max the Memory. With little respect for the law and the authorities -- understandable, given their experience with the authorities' lack of respect for much of the law, as well as common human decency -- they have no problem straying far beyond what private investigators usually are willing to do. They also have a code of honor, and they're willing to take matters in their own hands to see that justice (of sorts) is done, too.
       The case they're asked to look into involves the kidnapping of a woman. Her husband only comes to Marco twenty days after she disappeared, and he never contacted the police -- embarrassed by the fact that his wife was abducted while on an S and M modeling gig. A little digging soon reveals that the man hasn't quite revealed everything about the scene they were into -- and soon enough he and another participant have also disappeared. But even without the original client Marco and his buddies continue to look into the case -- sure the abducted woman is dead, but eager to put an end to the sick doings of whoever is behind it (that would be the Master of Knots, complete with appropriate calling card).
       The novel opens with a short and very graphic and disturbing scene of a woman in the hands of the Master of Knots -- an apparently skilled pain-master ("she had already had two orgasms since the start of their 'session'") showing to just what extremes he's willing to go. Eventually Marco and his crew find evidence of just what he does, and that's certainly reason enough for them to want to hunt him and his associates down.
       Money and time aren't much of problem as the crew travel around Italy, repeatedly buy new wardrobes, fly in folks who can help them with certain aspects of the case, and spend days and weeks on and off the trail. A rogue policeman -- his sister was involved in the S & M scene -- complicates their search slightly, and certainly makes it all messier, but also proves to be useful in the end. And, aside from the case, Marco and his buddies have their womanfolk to worry about (in Marco's case, a largely absent Virna) while Max also goes off to protest at the G8 meeting in Genoa -- and pays for it, as he finds the authorities once again prefer simply to resort to brutality rather than anything else.
       The violence and the S & M sex depicted in The Master of Knots are pretty stomach-turning, but Carlotto doesn't wallow in it: it -- and his descriptions -- are quick and to the point. Beyond that, The Master of Knots is a fairly leisurely story, the investigations dragging on, with only some urgency at the end. This isn't a standard PI-story -- but then Marco and his crew aren't you're normal (or licensed) investigators. Carlotto's anti-authoritarian streak runs deep and he lets it all come across here -- but he hammers home the message of a moral code (which he suggests the authorities are sorely lacking) from both sides, as he has no sympathy whatsoever for the anything-goes free-for-all of the Master of Knots' indulgences either.
       A solid but hardly remarkable little thriller.

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 January 2014

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The Master of Knots: Reviews: Massimo Carlotto: Other books by Massimo Carlotto under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Massimo Carlotto is a popular Italian author.

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