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Sex, politics, power, crime

Mark Camilleri: Nex
Merlin Publishers, 2016.

A detective or whodunit story is one which is read for entertainment and intrigue. Readers around the world are keen on crime and forensic thrillers, as popularised by a number of TV series. But these stories have been around for years before the craze on TV series started, with Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton and the like weaving complicated, plot-driven investigations on crime stories.

And so, a storyline that is understood without the reader having to work too hard, while simultaneously offering a surprising ending, may be hard to come by.

Mark Camilleri in his book Nex keeps the readers on their toes as he weaves a couple of mystery murders together and then unravels them to a rather ghastly, unexpected ending.

The beginning of the story takes us back to 2003, when journalist Neil Degiorgio goes missing, leaving behind no trace or witnesses to tell the tale.

Twelve years later, following a brutal murder conducted in broad daylight, coupled with a macabre finding, the case is reopened.

The story flows easily and is quick to make you feel involved enough to want to get to the bottom of it

Nex is the third book by Camilleri in a series following Inspector Gallo’s cases, the first two being Prima Facie and Volens. Inspector Gallo is the head of the crime investigation team in all three novels. Prima Facie has been turned into a TV series.

Nex is a stand-alone novel which sees a mix of some of the previous characters mixed in with new ones. Readers who have read (or watched, in this case) either of the previous books may be familiar with a couple of the characters, but it’s not necessary to read either of the previous books to get totally immersed in Nex and familiarise yourself with Inspector Gallo’s nature.

Why are so many of us fascinated with crime and sudden death? Isn’t there enough cruelty and suffering going on the world? Even in the depths of the horrible and macabre, there is nothing new under the sun. The answer may lie in deceit. In a mystery crime we are sucked into the world of our character or characters, we learn what makes them tick, we try to guess what their motives may be, why they act in a certain way and what they will do next.

In a couple of chapters we may be proved completely wrong, and yet the best writers will manage to make us ‘take sides’, to draw a veil across our eyes in a different form of brutal daylight ‘murder’ of our reasoning skills.

Camilleri’s writing is only brusque when it needs to be, pertaining to the character in question. The story flows easily and is quick to make you feel involved enough to want to get to the bottom of it.

Gallo is a character heavily laden with psychological problems that he reveals at different points throughout the novel, although we may gather his situation long before it is made obvious to us. The seemingly hot mess that is his personal life doesn’t stop him from working long and hard on his cases, punctuated by a similarly colourful sex life and interesting taste in music, which make him tangible to the reader.

One wouldn’t expect a regular person to be in this sort of job anyway, right? By the end, you might feel like you know him, like these bloody and terrible events happened last week in ‘quiet’ little Malta… and that Gallo is that dishevelled man you spotted perched on a bar stool with his fifth whisky just last week.

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