The Savage Shore by David Hewson #BookReview #BlogTour

Detective Nic Costa finds himself a stranger in a strange land when he's sent to infiltrate the mob in a remote part of southern Italy.
Roman police detective Nic Costa has been sent undercover to Italy's beautiful, remote Calabrian coast to bring in the head of the feared mob, the 'Ndrangheta, who has offered to turn state witness for reasons of his own.

Hoping to reel in the biggest prize the state police have seen in years, the infamous Butcher of Palermo, Costa and his team are aware the stakes are high. But the constant deception is taking its toll. Out of their depth in a lawless part of Italy where they are the outcasts, not the men in the hills, with their shotguns and rough justice, the detectives find themselves pitched as much against one another as the mob. As the tension rises, it's clear the operation is not going to plan. Is Nic Costa getting too close to the enemy for comfort - and is there a traitor among them ...?

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Savage Shore by David Hewson today. Many thanks to the author, Severn House and Kelly Lacey from Love Books Group Tours for inviting me and for my digital copy of the novel.

The Savage Shore is the first outing for Detective Nic Costa since 2011's The Fallen Angel. It's not a series I'm familiar with but I loved David Hewson's Juliet and Romeo earlier this year so couldn't resist reading this new title. I certainly didn't feel at a disadvantage not having read previous books in the series as David Hewson has incorporated little snippets of the returning characters' backstories which meant I soon had a good impression of who they were.
The novel actually opens with an extract from Calabrian Tales by Constantino Bergamotti and tells the tale of the founding of the Garduña - 'a band of holy villains' and the legend of three Garduña brothers who fled Spain and after being shipwrecked on Sardinia went their different ways. One brother to Naples, one to Sicily and the third to Reggio in Calabria. In turn, they formed three criminal organisations  - the Camorra, Cosa Nostra and the 'Ndrangheta. Further extracts from this guide - supposedly written by a relative of one of the characters in the novel - precede each part of the book and provide a fascinating insight into the history and culture of the area. It soon becomes clear that the myths told still have their part to play in this mysterious and wild part of Italy.
Nic Costa and his colleagues have been drawn to Calabria after being informed that a powerful local gang boss, Lo Spettro - The Ghost - wishes to turn pentito and become a state witness against his peers in return for freedom for him and his family. They are undercover in a fishing village but as seasoned officer, Peroni soon realises, this isn't their mission and as much as they might like to think they are in control here, it is the 'Ndrangheta who are calling all the shots. Their plan is uncompromising and dangerous - Nic must join the gang in the guise of a distant relative from Canada - Tomasso (Maso) Leoni in order to convince Lo Spettro that he can trust them to handle his defection.
Nic's transformation from Roman police officer to a member of the 'ndrina is tense yet strangely captivating. There's never any doubt as to the danger he is in but as he learns more about their ways and beliefs and is forced to undertake tasks which will convince others of his legitimacy, there's also the sense that he's becoming part of the legend of this elusive group too. He becomes increasingly close to Lo Spettro's daughter, Lucia as boundaries between cops and criminals become blurred. As the plan is gradually brought to fruition the reader is given more access to what each of the various factions within the story is up to than they are themselves. This sense of knowing more certainly ratchets up the tension as the book progresses but even when I thought I'd guessed what might happen, I was reminded that nothing is ever straightforward here.
As a suspenseful thriller, The Savage Shore is a gripping read which vividly captures the dangerous world of organised crime and the risks involved in infiltrating them. However, its exploration of choices and expectations is equally as compelling. Although it may seem that the lives of the 'Ndrangheta and the police are far apart, they are both often caught 'tra Scilla e Cariddi' - between a rock and a whirlpool, and perhaps not quite so different as it would first appear.  The setting is described so evocatively, I could almost smell the bergamot and thyme that permeates the air of the Aspromonte and there's a swordfishing scene which is so beautifully written, I had to read it twice. I couldn't fail to be entranced by this book, it's a complex, nuanced novel which so magnificently evokes the essence of an area from the rugged landscape and its enigmatic inhabitants to the myths and legends which have persisted for millennia. David Hewson transported me to the Mezzogiorno in The Savage Shore and it's undoubtedly one of my favourite novels of the year. Just wonderful! 

The Savage Shore is published by Severn House and can be purchased here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
David Hewson is a former journalist with The Times, The Sunday Times and the Independent. He is the author of more than twenty-five novels including his Rome-based Nic Costa series which has been published in fifteen languages. He has also written three acclaimed adaptations of the Danish TV series, The Killing. He lives near Canterbury in Kent.
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