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The Master of Knots by Massimo Carlotto

The Master of Knots (2002)

by Massimo Carlotto

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Judging a book by its cover is famously futile. But I fell for it nonetheless...

The 2014 Europa Edition of Massimo Carlotto’s ‘Master of Knots’ is a superficially thing of salacious sensation. The cover-art is overtly sexual: the dust-jacket itself is unusually high quality and pleasingly tactile, and the back-cover blurb is nothing less than the opening moments of an erotic strip-tease. It all suggests a mature, sensual exploration of explicit themes within.

The short prologue, too, was presumably written to attract a certain type of reader. It details the death of a beautiful woman during extreme BDSM and is the only part of the novel to dare to tread that dangerous ground. Here the author gets close to the core of the matter: the morality of sexual pleasure at the knife-edge of acceptability. But then he bails out, scampers back to the safety of a traditional pulp-fiction back-streets investigation – and not a particularly well developed one at that.

It’s a cop-out, plain and simple. And I have to wonder if this edition isn’t entirely intended to capitalise on the publicity flurry accompanying the ‘50 Shades…’ film.

The teasing intro aside, Master of Knots is an entirely average detective tale. A trio of over-the-hill Italian reformed criminals – one with mob connections, two rather more lightweight – undertake occasional investigations where victims can’t involve the police. The husband of a missing woman begs them to find out what happened to his wife after the pair of them fell foul of blackmailing bad guys, one of whom has a kink for the wilder side. Don’t wait with bated breath for the Master of Knots to make his appearance: he’s nothing more than a shadow, an underdeveloped plot device, a meaningless MacGuffin.

I'll post more details about the plot over at http://murdermayhemandmore.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/master-of-knots-rarely-risqu...

The final insult: in the concluding chapter it seems that the author couldn’t really be bothered to wrap up the investigation to give the reader any sense of satisfaction. The plot just subsides into obscurity with the protagonist effectively shrugging his shoulders and passing the buck. No real resolution: no moral conclusion. And barely anything to raise an adult eyebrow in the entire story.

I understand that this isn’t the best of this author’s work. I’d certainly think twice about trying any of his other books.

5/10 ( )
  RowenaHoseason | Jun 22, 2016 |
I had never read any of Carlotto before discovering this book in his “Alligator” series. Marco, ex-con, now private investigator without a license, and bar owner sets out with two other ex-cons (well, Rossini is still an active gangster) to eliminate a gang of S&M degenerates.

Mariano Giraldi comes to hire Marco and his friends “Max the Memory” and Rossini, to locate his wife, Helena who has been kidnapped. She specialized in being a model for S&M photographs. The husband who had a relationship with a different submissive dared not go to the police for fear their lifestyle would become public and his business would suffer. The woman has been gone a month leaving little hope of finding her alive. Others then disappear as Marco et al realize they have stumbled on to an S&M blackmail ring and snuff-film maker.

There’s a subplot revolving around the G8 summit meeting in Genoa in 2001. The police engaged in some serious violence against demonstrators and many were later brought to trial. Max, a Free Trade advocate, goes to protest and is seriously injured. Obviously Carlotto is making a strong political statement.

The dizzying amounts of Italian Lira being thrown around dates the book since the Lira was replaced by the Euro in 1999-2002. When they pay 20,000,000 Lira as a bribe to a hooker, my head begins to wobble a bit. That aside, this is a fun, if inconsequential, little entertainment that shows a very dark side of Italy’s corruption. If you want something as dark but more literary, read Donna Leon’s books. They are both entertaining and literate. Carlotto suffers by comparison. ( )
  ecw0647 | Feb 10, 2014 |
"La storia in breve è: un uomo, cui viene rapita e probabilmente uccisa la moglie per realizzare film hard estremi, si rivolge non alla polizia ma appunto al terzetto investigativo indipendente che fa solitamente da protagonista nei noir di questo autore. Inizia così, con una pagina molto forte che introduce subito nel cuore dell'argomento, questo romanzo che dipinge una storia piena di colpi di scena sino al finale catartico ma che lascia la bocca amara. Del resto, i romanzi di Massimo Carlotto non sono mai consolatori e cercano disperatamente solo giustizia e lo fanno come possono farlo gli uomini, tra confusioni, dubbi, incertezze, malesseri, entusiasmi e idealismi. Nel libro si parla molto di prigione, perché ai tre, tutti ex detenuti, il mondo sadomaso ricorda appunto la prigione, le sue violenze e patimenti, le ingiustizie che sono in fondo le stesse del mondo esterno. Nel "Maestro di nodi" si parla anche di società e politica, del rapporto con il potere.Il sadomasochismo è anche nella relazione tra individuo e società. Non a caso Max, uno degli investigatori, deciderà di andare a Genova per il G8. Le violenze che culminarono nella morte di un ragazzo esemplificano nel romanzo anche un momento storico, italiano ed internazionale. Il libro è un giallo o nero, come si vuole, che entra nel dibattito sui confini di genere, scardinandoli, come i veri scrittori sanno fare. E Carlotto è uno di loro. La sua scrittura è molto lavorata, calibrata, tra emozioni anche personali e incandescenza dell'argomento." bellissimo romanzo per gli amanti del genere. ( )
  virginiawoolf666 | Jan 9, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0752880713, Paperback)

Alligator—ex-convict turned private detective—finds himself pulled into a disturbing case involving an Italy known to few. Helena and Mariano Giraldi lead a secret double life in Italy's clandestine S&M scene. When Helena is abducted, her husband approaches Alligator for help. But Mariano seems more worried about losing his reputation than seeing his wife again. As Alligator investigates, he uncovers a world in which brutality, treachery, and passion go hand in hand. Behind Helena's abduction is a shadowy figure known as The Master of Knots—who proves to be as powerful as he is psychotic. As more members of the S&M underground disappear, Alligator races desperately against time to find his true identity.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:07 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

After a woman goes missing, her husband hires a private investigator, the Alligator, to find her, as Alligator and his associates discover a cult of sadomasochism and try to stop a serial killer, the Master of Knots, before he kills again.

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