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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Crocodile

Maurizio de Giovanni

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To purchase The Crocodile

Title: The Crocodile
Author: Maurizio de Giovanni
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 278 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: The Crocodile - US
The Crocodile - UK
The Crocodile - Canada
The Crocodile - India
La méthode du crocodile - France
Il metodo del coccodrillo - Italia
  • Italian title: Il metodo del coccodrillo
  • Translated by Antony Shugaar

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Our Assessment:

B : solid police procedural

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 21/6/2013 Barry Forshaw
Publishers Weekly . 27/5/2013 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "The Naples we are plunged into in de Giovanniís vivid and astringent novel is a phantasmagoric place, and it is the acute sense of locale that transforms the piece (imaginatively translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar) from standard police procedural into something rich and strange." - Barry Forshaw, Financial Times

  • "Descriptions of the police probe alternate with sections written from the murdererís viewpoint, effectively heightening the suspense, and the ending doesnít pull any punches." - Publishers Weekly

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:

       Inspector Giuseppe Lojacono was "a golden boy with a glittering career ahead of him" in Sicily's Agrigento, but his career was derailed when a Mafiosi said it was Lojacono that gave them inside information on what to expect from the police. Lojacono wasn't given any chance to prove his innocence; instead he was transferred to the San Gaetano police station in Naples, sentenced to while away his time playing poker on his computer in an office where he was expected simply to stay away from anything resembling real police work. His wife and fifteen-year-old daughter completely abandoned him, and after almost a year here he's leading a pretty dreary existence.
       Lojacono happens to be first on the scene at an unusual crime, and his well-trained eye spots a clue that might otherwise have been overlooked -- which , in turn, catches the attention of Assistant District Attorney Piras (who suffered a life-changing loss years earlier, too). The investigators want Lojacono to have nothing to do with the investigation, but when similar murders follow -- well-planned, close-range shootings of youths, with tear-stained tissues found at every crime scene -- Piras eventually decides that Lojacono may be the right man to look into all this.
       The Crocodile is told from multiple perspectives, describing what Lojacono is doing as well as presenting glimpses into the lives of the unnamed murderer, his victims, and some of those in these characters' orbits (such as the woman who runs the restaurant where Lojacono eats most nights). While several of the chapters describe the murderer's activities from the perspective of an omniscient narrator, there are also chapters in which he bares his soul, letters that he writes to a: "Sweetheart, my darling", in which he charts his progress in completing what is clearly a larger plan.
       De Giovanni slowly doles out the pieces of a puzzle here. The way the murderer goes about all this suggests a carefully worked-out plan finally being put into action, with his victims targeted for some specific (but unmentioned) reason -- but given that the victims are more or less innocents, just teenagers and students, it's unclear what exactly motivates him.
       The official police investigation thinks there must be a mob connection, and they're hostile to Lojacono's suggestion that there might be something completely different at work here; fortunately, Piras sees the light, and together with Lojacono they tackle the case from the right end -- leading to a race to see if they can find the murderer before he strikes again (as they correctly assume he plans to).
       De Giovanni toys with the reader, dangling suggestive clues, but not spelling out the details until very late on. It's a reasonably effective technique, but feels somewhat diluted by the use of so many perspectives: the currently so popular (i.e. far over-used) fictional device of presenting short chapters in the murderer's head -- here the letters he writes, explaining himself -- is, as so often, more irritating than helpful, annoying the reader by withholding information that such real confessions would surely include. Rather than simple police procedural, The Crocodile tries to present all the perspectives -- but in not being equally forthcoming with regard to each (i.e. by withholding certain information that the characters have) it feels like De Giovanni is not playing fair. There's something to be said for all these other characters' slice-of-life episodes -- especially in building the tension of which of these characters are likely to be the next target, and trying to figure out why they are being targeted -- but the killer's monologues/letters, in particular, are overkill.
       De Giovanni does a lot here quite well, even as there's a lot here that feels forced, too, from Lojacono's domestic trouble (though he is conveniently almost entirely cut off from contact with his wife and daughter) to the two women who show some interest in him here in Naples (all worrying indications that The Crocodile marks the beginning of a series, rather than being a one-off). Lojacono's not-quite sidekick, Giuffrè, with whom he shares the do-(almost-)nothing purgatory, is reasonably well used (i.e. sparingly) -- though De Giovanni can't resist him seeing salvation in Lojacono, encouraging him:

I can tell -- the mind of the great detective is grinding into gear. Think, Loja', think. I know it -- you're our one and only hope of ever getting out here.
       What's behind the crimes, and how and why they are perpetrated, makes for a pretty good foundation, and De Giovanni admirably avoids getting sentimental and taking some of the easier ways out along the way. It's a good, atmospheric thriller, and an interesting puzzle -- weakened only by some of the weaknesses in the presentation.

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 July 2013

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The Crocodile: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Maurizio de Giovanni was born in 1958.

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© 2013 the complete review

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