Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Book review : The Salome Effect - James Sajo

I have to admit, when I plucked The Salome Effect off my bookshelf and had a quick look at the cover, I wasn't hugely inspired - it reminded me of an outdated travel guide or a 1970's Technicolour postcard that has been lingering on a dusty postcard rack off the beaten tourist track for a few decades too long ! I was therefore actually pleasantly surprised by the punchy, intriguing writing that sucked me in right from the first page.

I like lead characters to be complex and multi-faceted and that is certainly the case for the main protagonist here. Robert Orazio is a well-liked American living in Italy where he makes his money giving English conversation classes and spends a large chunk of it in a rather seedy strip joint where he is in love with one of the "girls", a Romanian beauty named Mariana. But he is also a former soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which leads to a few hallucinations that leave him (and the reader) wondering what is true and what isn't in his view of the action in the latter part of the book. Mariana is another complex (albeit rather underdeveloped) character - she may work in the sex industry but is above all an art-lover and is loath to open her heart to Robert due to a tragedy in her private life several years ago so the couple barely share a kiss. Robert will do whatever it takes to win her favour, even if this goes beyond what is legally or morally acceptable. The parallels with Salome - a sensual dancer whose feminine charms led her lust-fuelled admirer to commit murder and bring her her heart's desire in the form of John the Baptists' head - are evident.

The book seemed to me to be almost a text book model of a classic noir novel. In his What is Noir? article, George Tuttle says : "In this sub-genre, the protagonist is usually not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. He is someone tied directly to the crime, not an outsider called to solve or fix the situation. Other common characteristics of this sub-genre are the emphasis on sexual relationships and the use of sex to advance the plot and the self-destructive qualities of the lead characters. This type of fiction also has the lean, direct writing style and the gritty realism commonly associated with hardboiled fiction." This definition quite accurately describes The Salome Effect.

I found the plotline to be believable and couldn't help but empathise with the main character, despite all his failings, watching with horror as events spiral out of control like a slow-motion car crash. I was slightly diappointed by the final few chapters because some of the central characters (such as Hassan and Marianna) suddenly seemed to have a personality transplant and commit some very out-of-character actions. All the loose ends did tend to get tied up rather too neatly at the very end too.

On the whole though, it is an enjoyable, fast-paced read and you certainly shouldn't let the rather uninspiring cover design put you off !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.95

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: WingSpan Publishing (9 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595944591
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595944597
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.2 x 21.6 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : All Fall Down - Louise Voss & Mark Edwards


  1. it does look terrible, great review though :)

  2. I thought exactly the same as you, it looks like something out of the 70s, but it does sound good.