Blood Washes Blood

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Prompted by a previously unknown name whispered by his dying grandfather and namesake, author Frank Viviano goes in search of a family secret, the mystery surrounding the murder of “the Monk,” a notorious bandit left dead over a century ago at a deserted Sicilian crossroad. Viviano’s rich description weaves together folklore and legend, fact and fable. He takes the reader into what he terms a “parallel universe,” the Sicily of his ancestors and that of the present. In this universe the reader meets not only the characters of the author’s ancestral family but the culture and circumstances that bred the contemporary Mafia. The cast of characters on the stage of modern Sicily is equally compelling. Described are lethargic bureaucracy and mouldering custom, taciturn people who hold the rusting keys to past mysteries and present events. The enduring melancholy of the Sicilian temperament as well as the local code of silence are difficult terrain on the path of Viviano’s journey.

The phrase, “blood washes blood,” the Sicilian equivalent of “eye for an eye,” articulates a lust for vengeance satisfied in the spilling of an enemy’s blood. The author’s resolution of the title’s enigma offers a twist to the story which belies the violent implications of the phrase. Readers journey with him in his search for Domenico Valenti, the reputed murderer of Viviano’s ancestral “monk,” and rejoice in the satisfying and revealing ending.

A journalist by profession and a “family” man by heritage, Frank Viviano has created a riveting story of his ancestral roots and the multicolored flowering of Sicilian culture. Blood Washes Blood manages to avoid the pitfalls of turgid and self-serving prose often associated with personal memoirs and historical research. Its feel is more like a good novel than the rich and well-researched history that it is.