Books

by Charles Lambert
Exhibit A, December 2013, $14.99

Given the wildness and complexities of its plot, the author could have relied solely on them, but Lambert takes the trouble to develop every character. A dual-time-period book set in Rome in 2004, with several chapters incorporating the havoc of the late ’70s, it tells the story of a group of friends who have evolved from being bank-robbing political radicals, to high functionaries in the Italian government. Written in various points of view, the most vivid scenes emerge from Helen DiStasi’s. Helen is in bed with her lover, former terrorist Giacomo Mura, when her husband Fredrico, an economist, is publicly assassinated. A former leftist-bordering-on-communist radical, Fredrico is now so ingrained in the Italian government that he is slated to meet with President George W. Bush to discuss Italy’s involvement in the Iraq War. But his assassination changes everything. Guilt-ridden, his adulterous wife begins investigating his assassination on her own, and discovers that her husband, who recently had seemed distracted, was involved in a plan called “Juggernaut.” This plan reaches all the way back to 1978 and the real-life murder of Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro. Well, this is a juicy plot, to be sure, but Lambert doesn’t write mere thrillers. An O. Henry Prize-winner because of the depth of his stories, he is more interested in the dark psychology of a loving wife who habitually betrays the husband she professes to love. He is also fascinated by the oddity of political parents who appear to be taking their son’s death more philosophically than is natural. Although Lambert’s cast of characters is large, no stereotypes appear; each person has his or her own dream of a better world. At the same time, they have all sold out their dreams, sometimes for mere convenience’s sake—as has Helen. And if friends or lovers have to be sacrificed? As one of the character explains, “The bigger the dream, the greater the toll of the dead.” In its intense focus on political ruthlessness, The View From the Tower echoes 1984, and, like that classic, is a superb, deeply thought-out book written by an author who recognizes the darkness of the human heart.

Betty Webb

Given the wildness and complexities of its plot, the author could have relied solely on them, but Lambert takes the trouble to develop every character. A dual-time-period book set in Rome in 2004, with several chapters incorporating the havoc of the late ’70s, it tells the story of a group of friends who have evolved from being bank-robbing political radicals, to high functionaries in the Italian government. Written in various points of view, the most vivid scenes emerge from Helen DiStasi’s. Helen is in bed with her lover, former terrorist Giacomo Mura, when her husband Fredrico, an economist, is publicly assassinated. A former leftist-bordering-on-communist radical, Fredrico is now so ingrained in the Italian government that he is slated to meet with President George W. Bush to discuss Italy’s involvement in the Iraq War. But his assassination changes everything. Guilt-ridden, his adulterous wife begins investigating his assassination on her own, and discovers that her husband, who recently had seemed distracted, was involved in a plan called “Juggernaut.” This plan reaches all the way back to 1978 and the real-life murder of Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro. Well, this is a juicy plot, to be sure, but Lambert doesn’t write mere thrillers. An O. Henry Prize-winner because of the depth of his stories, he is more interested in the dark psychology of a loving wife who habitually betrays the husband she professes to love. He is also fascinated by the oddity of political parents who appear to be taking their son’s death more philosophically than is natural. Although Lambert’s cast of characters is large, no stereotypes appear; each person has his or her own dream of a better world. At the same time, they have all sold out their dreams, sometimes for mere convenience’s sake—as has Helen. And if friends or lovers have to be sacrificed? As one of the character explains, “The bigger the dream, the greater the toll of the dead.” In its intense focus on political ruthlessness, The View From the Tower echoes 1984, and, like that classic, is a superb, deeply thought-out book written by an author who recognizes the darkness of the human heart.

Teri Duerr
3508
Lambert
December 2013
the-view-from-the-tower
14.99
Exhibit A