Sunday, 2 October 2016

THE 45TH NAIL by Michael and Ian Lahey

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK HERE
On Goodreads HERE

Reviewed by me as a member of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team

The basics: Bob, a middle-aged French teacher from middle America, receives a strange communication from his long-lost Uncle Jim who he believed to have gone MIA during World War II.  The contents of this communication are sufficient to send Bob off to Italy to find him.

From the blurb I was expecting an adventure type thriller, but the beginning is more like dark comedy, as Bob tells wife Beth untruths about where he is going (the portrayal of Beth was hilarious, I'd like to have read more about her), has his luggage and wallet stolen by a con artist/pickpocket gang as soon as he arrives in Italy, then takes a series of part-time jobs in order to clothe, feed and house himself before he can even think of travelling to Anzio to seek out the mysterious Uncle Jim.  His experience 'winging it' as a sommelier is very funny indeed, and some of the characterisation of the people he meets is first class (I particularly liked Edigio, the hotelier who helps him along the way).

As for the plot itself, I wasn't really convinced by it at first; it seemed to be more of a story about this funny guy who has all sorts of accidental adventures in Italy.  Then, at about twenty per cent, a well plotted twist made it all clear, and the tone changed.

The book shows the legacy left by the war, a love of Italy, the language, archaeology and social culture; I didn't know what some of the dialogue meant and had to do a certain amount of 'winging it' myself, but this wasn't a problem.  The last fifteen per cent of the book provides the terrible truth about Uncle Jim and the 45th nail - I was engrossed, and found it sad and moving.  The end is excellent.

I thought the story rambled a fair bit and gave more detail in many places where a more succinct account/stream of conversation would have had better effect, but the writing itself is great.  If it was trimmed down a bit it would be worthy of at least another half star, as far as I'm concerned.

An unusual book, and a good one.


  1. Reading this now, so I leaped over your review. But I am enjoying the book.

    1. It will be interesting to compare reviews when you have finished!