Book Review of Marrano by Mari Gaudio
When I began reading Marrano, I expected to read a standard fabricated plot inhabited by cardboard characters set between the Bronx, New York and Vatican City. Instead, I was drawn into an intriguing plot, made possible by the author's gift for rendering a scene filled with wonderful visual details, and memorable characters like Monsignor Tony Morello – a parish priest and former Marine, with ties to a City Island Mafia family, the Zerilli's. It doesn’t take long for the priest to realize that the fate of both the Morello and Zerilli families are inexorably bound together in this deadly plot to destroy the Papacy. A plot which pits the Sicilian Mafia against ex-Mossad agents.
All the characters in Marrano are revealed realistically with their human vulnerabilities, motivations and fateful tasks. Marrano’s’ dialogues convey colloquial meaning without a didactic tone. In fact, their voices remain diverse with precise accents and inflections tied into their logistical setting whether or not that setting is downtown Bronx or the opulent palaces of the Vatican.
I especially enjoyed the fire-works relationships between Tony and his Mafioso younger brother, Joey, and Tony and his gun-toting sister-in-law, Catherine, affectionately called “Cat.” These relationships remain a testimony to the human spirit and the mystery of loyalty, and yes, love.
Unlike other mystery novels, Marrano compels the reader to actively participate in the discovery of the historical ties of the ill-fated Marrano/Jews of Medieval Spain. Here, in 1601, the Order of the Sambenito was born. Its purpose was to rescue Marranos [i.e., falsely baptized Christians still practicing Jewish rites] from the Spanish Inquisition. Three-hundred years later, the ancient order is resurrected, this time, to destroy the papacy.
I couldn't help but see this novel as one perfectly suited for a Coppola/Scorsese film. Marrano, given its thrilling plot, wonderful characters and intriguing settings, is a screenplay ready for production.
The final chapter yields a stunning ending - even for an avid mystery reader like myself.
The Epilogue? Well, a twist of fate beyond imagination.
Marrano is an amazing literary work...Bravo, Randy Engel.