Beach Reads

By the Book: P.I. Vic Gonnella Returns in ‘You Think I’m Dead’

You Think I’m Dead (Vecchia Publishing) is Lou Romano’s second murder mystery starring street-smart detective Vic Gonnella and his savvy, gorgeous partner and live-in girlfriend, Raquel Ruiz, both from the Bronx.

He’s Italian, she’s Puerto Rican. When they’re not having a go at each other in bed or exchanging affectionate ethnic put-downs, they’re on the move to solve crimes that defy solution by the police or the FBI. The Gonnella series is one of two that Romano has been working on; the other, featuring Gino Ranno, also turns on violent crime. Retired businessman Romano summers on the East End and loves to write. He has also published two poetry collections and can create imaginative plots, but he might be better served if he concentrated on just one series because of inevitable overlap in types of characters and the fact that both series rely on similar details about Italian-American culture. Even references within a series may be confusing to new readers. For example, You Think I’m Dead brings back serial killer John Deegan who was in Intercession (Vecchia Publishing, 2014). Though he insists on helping Vic and Raquel get to the truth of the murder of a young boy, which is at the heart of the mystery here, it’s not clear why Deegan, a confessed murderer, is on the loose. Said to be brilliant, he nonetheless also seems to get information from an 81-year-old clairvoyant.

The psychic first contacts Raquel, who tells her and Vic that “a soul needs [immediate] help.” The soul is in the form of “energy” from the spirit of a 4-year-old boy who was viciously abused and killed and whose battered remains were found in a box. It turns out that this incident is based on a real-life case that occurred 58 years ago and has remained unsolved, though there were numerous investigations and much media attention. The dynamic duo, former NYPD, now P.I.s, are on the case, a commitment that will cause the boy’s spirit to visit them as well. Although the plot does engage, Romano’s narrative is too often paused for asides—interesting but detachable pieces on geographical areas and events, such as the best Italian restaurants in New York and Memphis historical sites, which are places across the country where Vic and Raquel pursue their investigation. Nice info but it slows down the suspense.

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