Genre: Adult Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Inferno Publishing Company
Release Date: April 16 2012
Pages: 362 pages (digital version)
I don’t read a lot of police procedural/murder/thriller books, not because I don’t enjoy them, but because I just don’t have time, and I prefer to focus on my favorite genres. But I’ve read some exceptional thrillers this year, and Murder Takes Time is one of them. Set in Brooklyn and Wilmington, Delaware, the story hops back and forth from the present to the past as Frankie “Bugs” Donovan, a detective who is investigating a string of murders with curious clues left at the crime scenes, tells his story, a story that begins over thirty years ago. I was impressed with not only the solid writing and well-constructed story arc, but the emotional relationships among the characters, an element that gave this story so many extra layers.
My favorite part of Murder Takes Time is the way Giammatteo takes his time building the story, like a brick layer adding one brick at a time. The story begins during the present day as Frankie is called to a crime scene to investigate the murder of a man who was shot twice, once in the head and once in the heart, but with obvious signs of having been tortured beforehand. It’s the second murder with the same M.O., and Frankie is beginning to have a bad feeling about who the killer might be. At the latest scene a dead rat is found in the freezer, and Frankie knows that someone from his past is leaving him clues.
The story starts out in third person from Frankie’s point of view, and a couple of chapters later it switches to the first person narrative of Frankie’s childhood pal Nicky “The Rat” Fusco. We are introduced to the colorful characters of Nicky’s old neighborhood and the boys he grew up with, including Frankie and Tony Sannullo, who is still Frankie’s good friend in the present day, and a mob boss to boot. As Frankie, Nicky and Tony grow up, they have a slew of adventures and close calls, but the most important part of their friendship is the code of “friendship and honor” that they live by, an oath they took as boys to always protect and stand by one another.
Now that Frankie suspects that one of them might be responsible for the brutal murders, he is faced with a huge dilemma: uphold his promise as a law enforcer to protect the public, or honor the promise he made in his youth. The answer is not an easy one, and Giammatteo skillfully fills in the blanks as he goes back and forth between the two narratives, bringing the reader closer and closer to the truth.
The reason this novel works so well is not that the reader is kept in suspense as to who the killer is, because honestly, it’s not that hard to figure out. What is compelling and makes you keep turning the pages, even after you know the identity of the killer, is the desire to know why he’s doing it. And that is exactly what this story is about, the many layers of experience that have made these characters who they are today.
Often in a book of this type, where the story shifts from past to present and back again, the author does a better job of writing about one over the other. But in Murder Takes Time I honestly couldn’t choose which narrative I liked better. I loved the richness of the characterizations as Nicky related the crazy events of his childhood, but I also hung on every word as Frankie’s investigation unfolded. When the two stories finally meet up near the end, I’ll admit that I shed a tear or two. The only problem I had with the book were some digital formatting issues, and this is a complaint that I often hear from reviewers who use e-readers. In my copy the novel lacked any kind of scene breaks, which made for some confusing transitions. But not even these small glitches could change my overall enjoyment of this first-rate tale.
Giacomo Giammatteo is definitely a writer to watch. His combination of tense drama and emotional connections between his characters add up to a story you will love to read.
Many thanks to the author for supplying a review copy.