Bella, by Steve Piacente

“A striking widow intent on proving the military lied about her husband’s death lures a Washington journalist into the investigation. Working together, they discover the power of temptation, the futility of revenge, and the consequences of yielding to either.”

Rating:  5 stars

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Bella is a compelling and tragic novel about the extent to which a widow will go to find out the truth about her husband’s death:  She was told that he’d died by enemy hands but this lie is shattered by an anonymous phonecall and in the midst of her pain she resolves to find the truth, whatever the cost.

This novel isn’t narrated from Bella’s point of view however, instead it is narrated by Washington journalist Danny Patragno, who is roped into the investigation by her ‘persuasiveness‘ and a little prod from his editor… For me, the advantage of the first person point of view is that it feels more personal and the author uses it with style to pull you in

Throughout the book there is the underlying theme of journalistic integrity, which I found especially interesting in light of the phone hacking scandal dominating the UK press at the moment.  Any good journalist will check their facts and strive to get both sides of the story, but to sell the piece to the general public there needs to be a ‘hook‘ and this can often be sensationalist. In the end I don’t think anyone can be unbiased, but they can at least try, which is what Danny struggles with.

There were some curve balls thrown into the story, but generally it was believable as life will ultimately throw up such surprises.  Any negatives? If I’m going to be brutally honest I initially found the ending a little drawn out.  For most of the book I was focussed on resolving the mystery of Hank’s death and once this was done I also expected the story to finish.  However, in hindsight, the majority of the ending sequence comprehensively delivered the consequences of Danny’s actions throughout the book. Instead of closing the book with a ‘solution’ to the mystery, it tied up the frayed personal strings of his life, an ending that was perhaps worth the investment.

Overall the editing was on par with what I would expect from a traditionally published book and it was an excellent read, as evidenced by a couple of nights lost sleep over when I found I couldn’t put it down…

Author bio:

Steve Piacente (@wordsprof) has been a professional writer since graduating from American University in 1976. Steve started as a sportswriter at the Naples Daily News, switched to news at the Lakeland Ledger, and returned to D.C. in 1985 as Correspondent for the Tampa Tribune. In 1989, the native New Yorker moved to the same position for the Charleston (SC) Post & Courier.  He is now deputy communications director at a federal agency in Washington, D.C., and teaches journalism classes at American University.

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