BOOKS: Lisa Scottoline’s historical novel plumbs the depths of emotion while exploring roots of the Mafia

For the last 30 years Lisa Scottoline has been churning out best selling novels. A former lawyer, her early books were mostly legal thrillers featuring her character, Benedetta Rosato, and a rotating cast of attorneys. About half of her over 30 novels have been stand-alone books and over the last five years those sorts of stories have been her primary focus.

A few years ago she did something really different when she wrote a book called “Eternal.” That one was a work of historical fiction set in Italy during World War II, She just published another historical thriller set in the land of her ancestors. “Loyalty” takes place during the 19th century in Sicily and in this one she performs a fictional deep dive into the origins of the Mafia.

During this period Sicily was very much governed by a class system, there were a few rich royalty and many poor peasants laboring on their estates. In this story Baron Zito is a wealthy overlord and Franco Forvanti is one of the workers sweating and straining among the aromatic lemon groves on the Baron’s lands.

Franco is ambitious, he aspires to becoming more than a poor laborer, perhaps one day he will have his own lemon groves. He’s a loyal worker and he is willing to do whatever the Baron asks of him. Perhaps by doing so someday he’ll finally realize some of his dreams.

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He cuts a striking figure, this young Franco. The author has a talent for depicting good looking male characters with a bit of swagger to them. When the Baron asks his enthusiastic lemon grower to perpetrate the abduction and kidnapping of a young boy Franco enthusiastically agrees to commit this hideous act.

It was a really evil thing to do; it also becomes the pivotal crime which instigates the gathering together of a fledgling band of criminals destined to be the initial embryonic version of what then morphed into the ultimate scourge of the region, the Mafia.

In Palermo a young attorney named Gaetano Catalano was horrified by the kidnapping. He’s a member of Beati Paoli, a secret coalition of noblemen who are trying to fight crime. He becomes determined to find Dante, the missing boy.

Meanwhile Dante has been consigned to a nightmarish existence. I’ll leave it to readers to discover the horrors thatScottoline has imagined for his place of captivity. Dante’s inferno of confusion and abandonment leave him questioning his own sanity.

Dante slowly gets it together. He falls in love with Lucia, who also has a tragic past. Scottoline had a wonderful love story in her novel “Eternal,” she does it once again in “Loyalty.”

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Will Gaetano Catalano ever find out what became of Dante, the kidnapped boy? Will Dante and Lucia figure out who abducted him? As all this was going on the Mafia was sprouting and growing like some monstrous mutated plant. Rest assured that in “Loyalty” Scottoline has written another sinuous, thoroughly entertaining tale of love, revenge, and vindication.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at

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