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R.J.Ellory – A simple act of violence

| On 11, Gen 2012

Un semplice atto di violenza

Il libro:
Editore Giano / Collana Nerogiano
Anno 2011 – titolo inglese “A simple act of violence”
655 pagine – rilegato
Traduzione Briasco L.; Vitangeli R.

Nei miei vari esperimenti, voglio provare a fare qualche recensione in inglese, per dare modo anche allo scrittore di leggere cosa ne penso del suo libro.

“The silent half”. All of us have a silent half were our sins, infringements, crimes and iniquities, the failing of reason, faith, honesty, our vices and  misdeeds are hidden. And every time we fall into disgrace.” “Do you know the difference between ethics and morality? Morality regards the regulations and the rules established by society. Don’t kill, don’t steal (….) Well, ethics is different. Ethics concerns the decisions a person takes when he or she must face reality in everyday life. Someone enters your house. He’s got a knife. He seizes your son. You’ve got a pistol (….) What can you do? You decide at once “I’ll fire him”.

Catherine Sheridan is at home, the video cassette recorder is showing the film “Life is a wonderful thing”. Suddenly she meets her murderer who strangles her and leaves her lifeless, with a white ribbon around her neck and her body covered with bruise. The scent of lavender wafts in the air.

The woman is the fourth of a killer the newspapers call “the killer of the ribbon” and the police must face a series of clues that always take them to a dead end. Actually these killings are a part of a much wider and more intricate plan, where  truth is so much hidden, because of a society that is often blind and superficial, that when the “Sacred Monster” is found out nothing will be seen with the same eyes.


The detectives Robert Miller and Al Roth, colleagues and friends but with conflicting characters, are appointed in order to conduct the police inquiries. Miller is considered a “solitary wolf”, single by choice, shy, irritable, good at his work- even if he doesn’t always take the opportunities his colleagues suggest him for his investigations. Roth is a married policeman, he’s got two children and though he does a time-consuming job, he makes a great effort to keep a “reasonable” family life. It seems that the murdered women never existed. Singles, with no friends or relatives. Their houses haven’t a well-worn look, the number of the social security and the bank accounts don’t coincide with their full name. In order to increase the tension, another woman is killed, fully out of the schemes compared to the previous four women, but with the same “modus operandi” as the others.

Pressure is very strong, both from the head of police Lassiter, and from the press that trembles with excitement to give a name to the murderer being real the doubt that he may repeat the act, if he isn’t arrested in time. Besides of this, it’s time of the middle mandate election in the U.S.A. and there’s no need of further tensions on the press.

The murderer wants to be found. He decides that the detective Miller must find him out. John Robey  (but is it his real name?) is a highly considered professor of Mount Vernon College, he speaks to his students and tries to inculcate some goals, some ideals in them. Probably the ideals he had when he was recruited by the CIA in the eighties and nineties together with Catherin Sheridan in the days of Regan and Bush senior. The people who were in charge of the recruitment were the “shepherds”, men who were able to understand that flash, that spark in the eyes, that implied the wish of making themselves useful to the nation. At that time Nicaragua was suffering strong social conflicts, between Sandinistas and Contras because of the control of the drug traffic.

In 1981 Regan himself stated categorically that the situation in that country of South America was just the result   of the hegemony of the pro-Marxist Sandinistas. During the same year the “agreement protocol” in which they stated the intelligence officers weren’t compelled to provide the government department representatives with information concerning the business closely related to the drug traffic, was signed.

The CIA agents had to keep the peace and to prevent chaos. In which way? Infiltrating and killing those who opposed or interfered with their plans. But can anyone kill in virtue of his ideals? Who can deice on another person’s life. And what criteria must he follow?

It would be extremely restrictive to consider this novel a thriller. It’s a cross-section of society of a country that, in the past years , had to confess a lot of mistakes made by the Presidents in office, scandals that compelled to judge in a different way the most powerful men in the world, not considering them empirical entity but common human beings, who in the name of wrong ideals ordered to kill, torture hundreds, thousands of people obviously covering up every trace.  But the waking up from a nightmare, for John Robey, also means “to roll up his sleeves” and try to remedy the horror of what had been made. A man who was compelled to kill pursuing some ideals that turned out to be groundless. A frail sandcastle which destroyed itself in a flash. R. j. Ellory has been able to balance rightly thriller and information, suspense and violence making the reading of his novel very  pleasant in spite of its 655 pages. A touch of style like Don Winslow’s that surprised me a lot.


After reading this novel, a question springs to mind: If you could go back in time to any country of the world, where dictators like Hitler, Gengis Khan, Caligola…. Lived and someone asked you to kill them explaining you that, if they had survived they would have wiped out thousands, millions of people, what would you do?

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