Tuesday, April 22, 2014

All He Saw Was the Girl by Peter Leonard

All He Saw Was the Girl is a deft crime thriller adventure story.  The fast-moving story is matched perfectly by the quickly-paced prose.  Deftly-drawn character sketches; exotic U.S. and foreign locales; hot, trashy women; hot tough guys and gangsters; action scenes galore; a twenty-something male protagonist who surprises people at every turn:  All He Saw Was the Girl is a book begging to be adapted to film.

The story is set partially in Detroit, Michigan, but mainly it is set in and around Rome, Italy.  The sense of place in All He Saw Was the Girl is very strong.  One could follow in the characters' footsteps if that is what one wanted to do.  All the top attractions in Rome get a mention, as well as Orvieto and Viterbo. 


Trastevere in Rome is the setting for many scenes in the book.

The title of the book comes from a line in the story, in a cheeky plug by the author for his book's suitability for adaptation:
And although cars and motorcycles zipped around, all he saw was the girl coming toward him like a scene in a movie.
In the first few pages of All He Saw Was the Girl, the protagonist, William McCabe, has encounters with Italian police in the shape of the uniformed Carabinieri and a police Commissario.  The first chapter is full of confidently written action scenes, with a keen eye for the visual story.  It has a hard-boiled delivery that makes this book's style punchy, as punchy as the protagonist gets more than once in the book, in both senses of the word.

The narration is third-person limited, that switches from one character's perspective to another swiftly, as swiftly as needed by the fast-moving storyline.  I only noticed a few errors and typos.  The e-book edition has some missing line breaks that have the effect of running dialog from two characters together, causing some confusion.

Privilege and its accompany sense of entitlement is a running theme in the book.  Here is McCabe explaining to his rich-kid buddy why their misadventure with the police has made front page headlines:
"Any time a famous rich kid screws up, people want to know about it.  Makes them feel good.  Makes them think they're better than you."
On the flip-side of that theme are the children of overachievers who struggle to live up to their parents' expectations, or lack of expectations.

The author is a master of the dry-aside, and he is equally confident writing from the female and male perspectives.  Here is a woman's view of a hunky idiot giving her a clunky compliment:
He wasn't going to be mistaken for a poet laureate, but she appreciated what he was trying to say.
Here is a two minute video postcard of Rome that shows many of the famous sights mentioned in All He Saw Was the Girl:

From the book's description:
Rome:  McCabe and Chip, two American exchange students, are about to become embroiled with a violent street gang, a beautiful Italian girl and a flawed kidnapping plan.

Detroit:  Sharon Vanelli's affair with Joey Palermo, a Mafia enforcer, is about to be discovered by her husband, Ray, a secret service agent.

Brilliantly plotted and shot through with wry humour, All He Saw Was the Girl takes place as these two narratives converge in the backstreets of Italy's oldest city.

A thrilling ride, it once again displays Peter Leonard's genius for exploring the wrong turns that life can take.  Peter Leonard's growing fan base includes greats such as Carl Hiaasen ('great storytelling') and Michael Connelly ('clever plotting and blood and guts characters'), and publications as diverse as Uncut ('sensational'), the Daily Mirror ('stunning') and the Big Issue ('brilliantly snappy').

All He Saw Was the Girl is released by The Story Plant.
The Story Plant is dedicated to bringing you inspired, passionate, and immersive works of fiction from an extraordinary group of writers. We are true believers in the power of fiction to transport, illuminate, and entertain and we welcome you to be part of our Story.

All He Saw Was the Girl is available as a Kindle e-book, a paperback book, and an audio book.  Here are direct links to the editions at Amazon.com:

Here are direct links to all the author's books, all crime thrillers, at Amazon.com:

Visit the author's website.

This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.

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