CLEAR BLUE SKY
F. P. Lione
Author Interview -- September 2007
In CLEAR BLUE SKY, Frank and Pam (F. P.) Lione continue the story of New York Police Detective Tony Cavalucci in a stand-alone novel (their first in hardcover). The talented husband and wife duo have three previous NYPD books under their belt, and the experience shows as they pen their best --- and grittiest --- police novel to date.
If you missed the now (mostly) out-of-print Midtown Blue series that chronicles the time leading up to this novel, you’re in for a treat here. Tony is engaged to single mom Michele and looking forward to being a full-time dad to her young son, Stevie. With a wedding in the works, the couple has lots to talk about --- and plenty of tension.
The chief stressor is a bachelor party that Tony’s loud and argumentative Italian family is insisting on. Michele lets Tony know that if the bachelor party goes as planned, she’s calling it quits. Of course, this isn’t the real reason why Tony’s family has mostly turned against him. They don’t care for his hard-won sobriety (his sister Denise calls him “Mr. Twelve Stepper”), and they’re not crazy about the fact that he’s marrying Michele, a single mother. They also don’t like his new-found commitment to faith. It’s not long before the inevitable showdown occurs, and Tony finds that he must choose between his family and his fiancée and her son.
And what a family. Tony’s divorced mom is dating a Harley biker. His father’s trampy second wife is pregnant, which his father seems to find unusually upsetting --- and we discover why, as the novel unfolds. Add a few Mafia relatives, and the sparks (and punches) are sure to fly at any family gathering.
Underneath the tension is Tony’s insecurity about his own worthiness. “The truth is, I felt kind of like a fraud with Michele. Like maybe if she really knew me, she wouldn’t be so quick to marry me…. It was like I kept waiting for the hammer to hit me and things to crash and burn around me like they always did.”
Joe Fiore is Tony’s wise Christian partner, and one of the reasons why Tony has been able to stay sober and deal with his Italian family. He’s also the reason why Tony has found a renewed faith. But Tony has stopped going to church and hasn’t been able to talk to Michele or Joe about why. His conversations with Joe reflect the reality and messiness of church life.
Tony’s life as a cop provides some of the best moments in the book. Speed chase scenes, almost-too-strange-to-be-true incidents (a dog that is electrocuted when it pees on open live wires on a lamp post vandalized by the homeless for their boom boxes), the ins and outs of a grand jury trial, and even a burglary in a geisha house all score high on the “wow, I didn’t know stuff like this went on” scale. Insider lingo also enlivens the text --- one man with a bandaged head injury is said to be wearing a “Bronx party hat.” As in the other Lione books, there are plentiful descriptions of Italian food that will make your mouth water. It’s a wonder Tony doesn’t weigh 300 lbs.
For those readers new to Tony’s story, F. P. Lione is an Italian-American married couple, Frank and Pam, who are both children of NYPD detectives. (Frank has also served with the NYPD). Their direct experiences with the police force and love of the city lend authenticity to the novel. The narrative isn’t without some troubles --- lots of consecutive sentences that begin with “We” and “I”, for example. But they pen some killer descriptions, such as this one about Friday bingo night at St. Michael’s: “Kind of like offtrack betting, with old Italian women in rolled-down stockings.”
The twin towers on the cover and prologue clue in the reader that CLEAR BLUE SKY’s story will climax in the events of September 11th. In a post 9/11 world, where it seems as if every emotional drop has been wrung out of the fictional and nonfictional publishable possibilities, I was skeptical that anyone could write a moving scene six years after the fact. But the Liones handled the tragedy well enough to give me goosebumps. It’s also a crucial and believable way for them to literally nudge some of their characters into a stronger belief in God.
The Liones just keep getting better in every novel. They adeptly blend Italian life, relationship issues, fascinating stories from the New York City streets and faith into a page-turning read that will hook new readers while continuing to please fans of their previous books. Don’t miss it.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at email@example.com.
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