Dr. Nick Carlotti has worked hard to become one of the most successful surgeons in Philadelphia and to distance himself from father, one of the city’s biggest crime bosses. But when his mother dies in a freak car accident, Nick finds himself brushing up against the criminal underworld again. His investigation into her death reveals civic conspiracies, family skeletons and things about himself he never knew.
For a debut, CARLOTTI has a lot going for it. The novel has a decent pace, as well as polished and descriptive prose, but its most impressive aspect might be its characters. They aren’t unfamiliar if you’ve read a few crime drams—there’s the overworked surgeon, the tireless police detective, the suspicious mafia boss. But they’re all solidly described and sketched in pretty human strokes. It seems like every character has a little layer or two, something that’s particularly important in a mystery. After all, the point of a mystery is unraveling something. It’s also a nice touch because, at its core, CARLOTTI is a redemption story, and you can’t have a redemption story unless your characters have a few flaws to fix.
Some readers might be surprised by the Christian apologist streak that appears increasingly as the book progresses. However, it’s unapologetically telegraphed early in the narrative, and it evolves in a fairly organic way. Probably only readers who want their church and literary states clearly separated will be turned off by the book’s spiritual dimension. What’s less surprising is the main character’s profession, as author David Dalrymple is an oral surgeon (he also comes across as pretty well-read). Every now and again a little medical jargon sneaks its way into the book, but this happens so rarely that it shouldn’t scare off any lay-readers.
Far more than anything spiritual or medical, CARLOTTI’s biggest enemy is its length. It’s an ambitious work, but it feels overstuffed sometimes, or at least overwhelming, particularly when it sprawls outside of Philadelphia. As long as the narrative is in and around the city, it stays tight. But when Nick and his father start traveling, it can get a little unwieldy. Still, the prose and formatting are always clean, the characters are well-rounded and the mystery is suitably mysterious. CARLOTTI has got a lot of words, but conspiracy crime fans who don’t mind some spiritual depth will have no problem reading them.
CARLOTTI is an impressive and readable debut novel that gives fans of conspiracy crime fiction something to think about—and a lot to read.
~Colin Newton for IndieReader