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Murder Takes Time
by giacomo giammatteo   

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Category: 

Mystery/Suspense

Publisher:  Inferno Publishing Company ISBN-10:  B007UNJJYI Type: 
Pages: 

373

Copyright:  April 10, 2012 ISBN-13:  9780985030216
Fiction

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Three boys swore to be friends forever—life had a different idea.

 There was only one rule in our neighborhood—never break an oath. But oaths are easy to take and damn hard to keep. 

 

Now I'm staring at my best friend, lying on the floor in a pool of blood, my bullet in his gut. Where the hell did it go wrong?

 

To understand that you’d have to go back to the beginning, back to when the three of us ruled the neighborhood. 

Excerpt


Chapter 1
Rule Number One―Murder Takes Time

Brooklyn, New York—Current Day

He sipped the last of a shitty cup of coffee and stared across the street at Nino Tortella, the guy he was going to kill. Killing was an art, requiring finesse, planning, skill—and above all—patience. Patience had been the most difficult to learn. The killing came naturally. He cursed himself for that. Prayed to God every night for the strength to stop. But so far God hadn’t answered him, and there were still a few more people that needed killing.

The waitress leaned forward to refill his cup, her cleavage a hint that more than coffee was being offered. “You want more?”

He waved a hand—Nino was heading towards his car. “Just the check, please.”

From behind her ear she pulled a yellow pencil, tucked into a tight bun of red hair, then opened the receipt book clipped to the pocket of her apron. Cigarette smoke lingered on her breath, almost hidden by the gum she chewed.

Spearmint, he thought, and smiled. It was his favorite, too.

He waited for her to leave, scanned the table and booth, plucked a few strands of hair from the torn cushion and a fingernail clipping from the windowsill. After putting them into a small plastic bag, he wiped everything with a napkin. The check was $4.28. He pulled a five and a one from his money clip and left them on the table. As he moved to the door he glanced out the window. Nino already left the lot, but it was Thursday, and on Thursdays Nino stopped for pizza.

He parked three blocks from Nino’s house, finding a spot where the snow wasn’t piled high at the curb. After pulling a black wool cap over his forehead, he put leather gloves on, raised the collar on his coat then grabbed his black sports bag. Favoring his left leg, he walked down the street, dropping his eyes if he passed someone. The last thing he wanted was a witness remembering his face.

He counted the joints in the concrete as he walked. Numbers forced him to think logically, kept his mind off what he had to do. He didn’t want to kill Nino. He had to. It seemed as if all of his life he was doing things he didn’t want to do. He shook his head, focused on the numbers again.

When he drew near the house, he cast a quick glance to ensure the neighbors’ cars weren’t there. The door took less than thirty seconds to open. He kept his hat and gloves on, walked into the kitchen, and set his bag on the counter. He removed a pair of tongs and a shot glass, and set them on the coffee table. A glance around the room had him straightening pictures and moving dirty dishes to the sink. A picture of an older woman stared at him from a shelf above an end table. Might be his mother, he thought, and gently set it face down. Back to the kitchen. He opened the top of the black bag and removed two smaller bags. He set one in the fridge and took the other with him.

The contents of the second bag—hair and other items—he spread throughout the living room. The crime scene unit would get a kick out of that. He did one final check, removed a baseball bat from the bag, then sat on the couch behind the door. The bat lay on the cushion beside him. While he stretched his legs and leaned back, he thought about Nino. It would be easy to just shoot him, but that wouldn’t be fair. Renzo suffered for what he did; Nino should too. He remembered Mamma Rosa’s warnings, that the things people did would come back to haunt them. Nino would pay the price now.

A car pulled into the driveway. He sat up straight and gripped the bat.

#
Nino had a smile on his face and a bounce in his step. It was only Thursday and already he’d sold more cars than he needed for the month. Maybe I’ll buy Anna that coat she’s been wanting. Nino’s stomach rumbled, but he had a pepperoni pizza in his hand and a bottle of Chianti tucked into his coat pocket. He opened the door, slipped the keys into his pocket, and kicked the door shut with his foot.
There was a black sports bag on the kitchen table. Wasn’t there before, Nino thought. A shiver ran down his spine. He felt a presence in the house. Before he could turn, something slammed into his back. His right kidney exploded with pain.

“Goddamn.” Nino dropped the pizza, stumbled, and fell to the floor. His right side felt on fire. As his left shoulder collided with the hardwood floor, a bat hit him just above the wrist. The snap of bones sounded just before the surge of pain.

“Fuck.” He rolled to the side and reached for his gun.

The bat swung again.

Nino’s ribs cracked like kindling. Something sharp jabbed deep inside him. His mouth filled with a warm coppery taste. Nino recognized the man who stood above him. “Anything you want,” he said. “Just kill me quick.”

#
The bat struck Nino’s knee, the crunch of bones drowned by his screams. The man stared at Nino. Let him cry. “I got Renzo last month. You hear about that?”

Nino nodded.

He tapped Nino’s pocket with his foot, felt a gun. “If you reach for the gun, I’ll hit you again.”

Another nod.

He knelt next to Nino, took the shot glass from the coffee table. “Open your mouth.”

Nino opened his eyes wide and shook his head.
The man grabbed the tongs, shoved one end into the side of Nino’s mouth, and squeezed the handles, opening the tongs wide. When he had Nino’s mouth pried open enough, he shoved the shot glass in. It was a small shot glass, but to Nino it must have seemed big enough to hold a gallon. Nino tried screaming, but couldn’t. Couldn’t talk either, with the glass in there. Nino’s head bobbed, and he squirmed. Nothing but grunts came out—fear-tinged mumbles coated with blood.

The man stood, glared at Nino. Gripped the bat with both hands. “You shouldn’t have done it.”

A dark stain spread on the front of Nino’s pants. The stench of excrement filled the room. He stared at Nino, raised the bat over his head, and swung. Nino’s lips burst open, splitting apart from both sides. Teeth shattered, some flying out, others embedding into the flesh of his cheeks. The shot glass exploded. Glass dug deep gouges into his tongue, severing the front of it. Shards of glass pierced his lips and tunneled into his throat.
He stared at Nino’s face, the strips of torn flesh covered in blood. He gulped. Almost stopped. But then he thought about what Nino had done, and swung the bat one more time. After that, Nino Tortella lay still.

He returned to the kitchen and took a small box from the bag on the counter then went back to the living room. Inside the box were more hairs, blood, skin, and other evidence. He spread the items over and around the body then made a final trip to the kitchen to clean up. He undressed and placed his clothes into a large plastic bag, tied it, and set it inside the black bag. He took out a change of clothes, including shoes and plastic covers for them. Careful not to step in any blood, he went back to stand over the body.

Nino lay in his own piss, shit, and blood, eyes wide-open, mouth agape.

You should never have done it, Nino.

He blessed himself with the sign of the cross while he repeated the Trinitarian formula. “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.” Then he shot Nino. Once in the head. Once in the heart. An eye for an eye. And then some.

Before stepping out the door, he removed the plastic covers for his shoes, placed them into the bag, then closed and locked the door behind him. The wind had picked up since he arrived, bringing a cold bite with it. He turned his collar up and tucked his head into his chest.

Forgive me, Father, for what I have done.

He walked two more blocks, almost to the car, when an image of Donnie Amato appeared in his head.
And for what I still have to do.


Professional Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
MURDER TAKES TIME

A trail of murdered mobsters puts three best friends on opposite sides of the law in Giammatteo’s debut crime novel.

Giammatteo turns a genre stereotype on its head with a smart balance of conflicting perspectives that emotionally involve the reader in the New York underworld and its dirty players. Frankie “Bugs” Donovan, Nicky “the Rat” Fusco and Tony “the Brain” Sannullo were inseparable as kids, living by a code of “friendship and honor,” sharing families, stealing cigarettes and watching each other’s backs. Things change after a fight with another gang leaves two teenage boys dead and sends Nicky to prison for a decade. When Nicky gets out, nothing is the same: The girl he loves is married to someone else, Frankie is a cop and Tony is in the mob. With no family to turn to, Nicky’s only recourse is Tony’s criminal connections—and with the mob, murder is never far away. When the bodies of brutally executed mobsters start showing up in Brooklyn, Frankie is given orders to track down the killer. It doesn’t take long for the evidence to lead back to his old neighborhood and his two best friends. The storytelling switches smoothly back and forth, easing from Nicky’s reflections on his childhood difficulties and the respite he found with Frankie and Tony, to Frankie’s struggles to fulfill his professional duties without forsaking his friendships. Ultimately, Frankie must decide whether he is a cop or a gangster, while dealing with the sacrifices that choice entails. Giammatteo’s novel kicks off with the unfortunate impression of being an oversexed, hyper-violent crime drama, yet the author digs deep to find a balance between a psychological thriller and a coming-of-age story. The narrative heat and layered characterization rarely drag, making for an engaging read.

A nuanced debut that upends genre stereotypes and readers’ expecations.


SPReview
What would you do if you thought one of your two best friends from childhood was wanted for murder and you were the cop in charge of the investigation?  Would you be able to put your feelings aside and do your job?  In Giacomo Giammatteo’s debut novel, Murder Takes Time, he explores the power of friendship and honor.
Right from the start, the reader is thrown into the bloody world of mobsters.  The opening pages depict a horrific killing.  The murder scene is not for the faint-hearted.  At first I was uncomfortable.  But fear not, this is not a novel that centers primarily on acts of violence.  Gimmatteo switches gears deftly and tells the story of how we ended up at the murder scene.
Nicky “the Rat” Fusco, Tony “the Brain” Sannullo, and Frankie “Bugs” Donovan are best friends in Wilmington, Delaware.   During their younger years they rely on each other to survive.  They are bound by a code of friendship and honor that they swear to uphold forever.  This code is challenged when Nicky rushes to a gang fight that Frankie and Tony are involved in.  Nicky gets a tip that the other gang is bringing a gun.  He enters the fray and saves Frankie’s life by shooting two members of the rival gang.  He ends up in prison for ten years.
While Nicky is in prison, Frankie and Tony both move to New York City.  Frankie joins the police force and becomes a homicide detective.  Tony embroils himself into the mob world.  When Nicky gets out of prison he learns that the woman he loves has married another man and now has a child.  There is nothing left for him in Delaware so he moves to New York City.  He believes that if he can make it big he can go back and impress his former sweetheart.   However, making it big as an ex-con is no easy feat.  He turns to what he believes is his only logical solution: Tony and the mob.
The mafia and murder go hand in hand.   Soon Frankie is involved investigating a string of mob killings and all of the clues lead back to either Tony or Nicky.  Frankie is torn between the code and doing his job.  The closer he gets to the answer the more he fears what he will have to do.  He has to decide: is he a cop or a gangster?
The story switches back and forth between Frankie’s battle with his sense of duty as he investigates the murders and Nicky’s recollection of his childhood and his bond with Frankie and Tony.  As I mentioned above I was fearful that this novel would lack any depth after reading about one of the grisly murders.  My fears were soon soothed and I began to appreciate the exploration of the characters to figure out how they all ended up in their own predicaments.
Giammatteo takes his crime novel to a new level and makes the reader feel for the murderer and the cop tracking him down.  As is so often the case in life, nothing is black and white.  The author explores the shade of grey and puts the characters through the wringer so the reader knows each one intimately.  Don’t fret though, if you are looking for a fast-paced novel with plenty of action, you will not be disappointed.  I thoroughly enjoyed Giammatteo’s first novel and I look forward to reading more works by him.  I give Murder Takes Time: Book 1 in the Friendship & Honor Series five stars out of five.


OnFictionWriting
Murder Takes Time
By: Giacomo Giammatteo   Reviewed by OFW editor: Renée Miller
Published: April 28, 2012


From the cover:
 
There was only one rule in our neighborhood—never break an oath. But oaths are easy to take and damn hard to keep.
 
Now I'm staring at my best friend, lying on the floor in a pool of blood, my bullet in his gut. Where the hell did it go wrong?
 
To understand that you’d have to go back to the beginning, back to when the three of us ruled the neighborhood.
 
The first pages reveal a murder, and then another. The reader is left breathless, and must follow the detective who is trying to figure out who could be capable of such brutality. While he searches, he knows deep in his heart that the culprit is someone he knows inside and out, and he wonders how he missed such an obvious dark side to one of his childhood buddies.
 
Readers who are fans of the classic crime mystery structure will delight in Giacomo Giammatteo’s novel, “Murder Takes Time.” Following two characters, this novel takes the reader back and forth in time to reveal not only “whodunit,” but also why they did it.
 
Giammatteo has a gift with dialogue, and creates a smooth, natural flow that is easy to “hear” as well as to read. However, because many of the characters share the same background and grew up in the same neighborhood, it is sometimes difficult to know who is speaking when scenes change. This confusion is momentary, and doesn’t pull the reader from the story, but may be a sticking point for some.
 
The plotting of this novel is interesting. The reader begins in current time, with a series of brutal murders. Giammatteo grips you by the throat in the first two chapters, posing several questions that he doesn’t answer until much later—a vital component to the mystery element of the genre. Then the pace changes, as the reader is taken back a couple of decades, where the POV character and format changes. While this movement from third person in the present time to first person in the past is smooth initially, as the pace picks up near the end, it can become confusing for the reader. This doesn’t slow the pace of the story as much as it might become frustrating.
 
Perhaps the most enticing part of this book is the author’s refusal to give you any information easily. Many bits are hinted at, but not fully revealed until the bitter end. This keeps the pages turning, even while the reader grits her teeth in satisfying annoyance. Giammatteo masterfully takes several plot threads and weaves them into the story, seemingly unrelated until they all come together at the end.
 
Readers that enjoy a novel that carries them along effortlessly, but still keeps a steady pace and requires a certain amount of thinking on the reader’s part, will definitely enjoy “Murder Takes Time.” Lovers of strong, yet fluid prose will also savor a few exquisite lines Giammatteo weaves through an otherwise gritty narrative. 


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