My rating: 2 of 5 stars
L’allieva, the debut book by medical doctor Alessia Gazzola, has certainly been much anticipated in the Italian publishing world and has so far triggered very different and rather strong reviews (both positive and negative).
The protagonist, Alice Allevi, is a young trainee pathologist who has to struggle against the customary Italian nepotism and patronising macho attitude of her colleagues as well as her own absent-mindedness on the job, which puts her in trouble more than once. She seems to have a rather unfortunate fascination with her young trainer but falls for a charming and exotic young man whom she meets at an art exhibition. All this while trying to follow, against her superiors’ advice, her own hunch on the circumstances of the death of a young girl belonging to the Roman high society, whom she had met by chance in a shop a few days earlier.
Alice has been called a cross between Kay Scarpetta and Bridget Jones and she certainly has elements of both: the book is well written and runs very smoothly and easily, although mixing two genres like Alessia has done here is no mean feat. Crime readers are notoriously very difficult to please, requiring a watertight and complex plot as well as an excellent description of characters and locations, while romance is concentrated on feelings and emotions more than on hard facts. It is a tightrope that Alessia is walking here and credit is due to her for this.
As a crime fiction reader, I would have probably liked her to draw more from her own forensic knowledge and experience which can really make a book gripping, and I hope that the next case will perhaps have a few more twists in the plot and draw a lot more on the forensic detail. As a doctor, she has the capability to do so, and she needs to exploit this fully.
The book is, all in all, a good debut and I am sure the writer will, in the next books, choose to concentrate on only one genre, the crime or the romance: the resulting book will certainly be much stronger.