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#1 best-selling author Lisa Scottoline delivers Loyalty, an emotional, action-packed epic of love and justice, set during the rise of the Mafia in Sicily.
Loyalty can save a soul, or destroy one.
Franco Fiorvanti is a handsome lemon grower toiling on the estate of a baron. He dreams of owning his own grove, but the rigid class system of Sicily thwarts his ambition. Determined to secure a better future, Franco will do anything to prove his loyalty to the baron. But when the baron asks him to kidnap a little boy named Dante, Franco makes a decision that will change his life — and even the history of Sicily — forever.
Gaetano Catalano is an idealistic young lawyer whose devotion to justice is tantamount to a calling. He’s a member of the Beati Paoli, a real-life secret society of aristocrats who investigate crime in Palermo, a city riddled with graft. Gaetano sets out to find the boy and punish the kidnapper, but his mission leads him to a darker place than he had ever imagined.
Meanwhile, Mafalda Pancari is a new mother rejoicing at the birth of her daughter Lucia, when disaster strikes. And Alfredo D’Antonio is a goatherd living as a hermit, under constant threat of being discovered as a Jew.
This cast of unforgettable characters collides in this epic tale of good versus evil, as Loyalty twists and turns to its monumental showdown. Readers will be transported to the dramatic and ruggedly beautiful island of Sicily, the jewel of the Mediterranean, where lush lemon groves and mouth-watering cuisine contrast with a turbulent history of colonization and corruption. Scottoline brings her decades of thriller writing to historical fiction, creating in Loyalty a singular novel that no reader will be able to put down.
New York Times Bestseller
Globe and Mail Bestseller
Barnes & Noble Most Anticipated Novel of March
Booklist Starred Review
“A Best Historical Fiction of Spring” – BookBub
LibraryReads Selection for March 2023
BookBub Most Anticipated of 2023
Lit Hub Top 25 Book for 2023
CrimeReads Top 25 Historical Crime Book to Look For in 2023
Zibby Magazine Most Anticipated Book of 2023
“A powerful, poignant exploration about the rise of the Mafia in Sicily, Lisa Scottoline’s Loyalty is a gripping, compulsively readable tale of courage, loyalty, family secrets, and the price of honor. An unputdownable piece of historical fiction that puts Scottoline’s talent for writing twisty plots and unforgettable characters on full display.”
—Kristin Hannah, author of The Four Winds
“Scottoline brings nineteenth-century Sicily alive in this historical thriller with fairy-tale themes, revenge quests, and compelling heroes reminiscent of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. Every scene is a full sensory experience, as Scottoline weaves lemon-scented breezes, the ocean’s sounds, and sun-baked piazza stones into a timeless, tragedy-strewn story of love, power, and redemption. History fans will appreciate the novel’s well-researched foundation, especially concerning the origins of the Sicilian Mafia and early mental-health institutions.”
“A gripping, up-all-night novel of power and vengeance in a violent and beautiful land. Loyalty finds Lisa Scottoline on new turf—and firing on all cylinders. Her versatility as a writer knows no bounds.”
—Daniel Silva, author of Portrait of an Unknown Woman
“I haven’t read a story set in Sicily that was this good since Giuseppe Di Lampedusa’s amazing novel The Leopard. The reader knows when an author’s heart is in their writing, and Lisa Scottoline’s heart and soul is in Loyalty. Historical fiction, when it’s good, is a time machine, carrying us back to a vanished world that we can inhabit for awhile. Loyalty does that and more—it’s a magic carpet ride that will transform us and stay with us. A beautifully written tale, wonderfully told by a master storyteller.”
—Nelson DeMille, author of The Maze
“A passionate epic of the Mafia’s origins among the fragrant lemon
groves of Palermo. A gorgeous tapestry of Sicilian history. An absolute
feast for readers everywhere.”
—Kate Quinn, author of The Diamond Eye
“The enormously talented Lisa Scottoline took a beautiful leap into historical fiction with 2021’s Eternal, one of my favorite novels of that year. And now, almost impossibly, she has outdone herself with Loyalty, a heart-pounding, emotional thrill ride through Sicily, tracing the tragic, violent dawn of the Mafia with the finesse of a storyteller born to breathe life into Italy’s hidden tales. In a world so well-drawn you can almost taste the lemon-scented night air, the plump green olives, the goat cheese from the mountains, and the fish fresh from the cerulean sea, she brings to life a motley cast of brilliantly drawn characters, including a kidnapped boy raised in a madhouse, a reclusive cheesemaker with a secret, a lawyer with a divine calling, a girl so luminous she seems to embody light itself, and two twin brothers whose winding road to power is soaked with the blood of innocent men. Loyalty is a beautiful, bold, and brilliant masterpiece that, in the spirit of The Godfather, reminds us of the perils of blind allegiance, the consequences of betrayal, and the lengths to which one will go for family. A breathtaking tour de force.”
—Kristin Harmel, author of The Forest of Vanishing Stars
“This brilliantly-told story about the rise of the Mafia is an unforgettable saga of the powers of corruption and courage, injustice and honor, family secrets, loyalty, and love set against the evocative backdrop of Sicily. Scottoline deftly explores the darkest passions and the deepest compassion of human nature in a fabulously twisty historical thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end.”
—Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Postmistress of Paris
“Loyalty is a wonderfully atmospheric and operatic tale about the origins of the mafia in the wake of Sicily’s crumbling feudal system. Power loves a vacuum, and this book’s most ambitious characters step right in at the peril of their own souls. At heart, though, this is an earthy novel, the vivid details of which make you smell the sweet lemon groves, feel the salty sea spray on your cheeks, and taste the pasta, pistachios and rich cheeses of Sicily. With a tangled plot of child kidnapping and brotherly revenge that unravels for a gripping and entertaining finale, we glimpse the terrible consequences of inequality–from the superstition, prejudice and poverty of the peasantry to the “might makes right” ethos of a corrupted and undemocratic political system. Brava!”
—Stephanie Dray, author of The Women of Chateau Lafayette
“A poignant, masterfully-crafted epic novel set in Sicily during the rise of the Mafia, Loyalty places unforgettable characters on a collision course, as ambition and the quest for power threaten the bonds of family, society, justice, and love. Rich with intrigue and secrets, tension and tenderness (not to mention the intoxicating scent of lemon groves!), this is Lisa Scottoline at her best!”
—Jennifer Rosner, author of The Yellow Bird Sings and Once We Were Home
“Tautly plotted, brimming with detail…Scottoline fills her tale with a richly
varied cast, gathering them into a web of intrigue as the book races
towards its heart-stopping finish. A delight!”
—Helene Wecker, author of The Hidden Place
“Scottoline brings her characters to life, instilling them with wit and intellect as they navigate the corruption of Sicily’s law enforcement. Historical crime fiction fans will be riveted.”
It was the final night of the Festival of Saint Rosalia, and hundreds of people lined Via Toledo, cheering, praying, and singing hymns. Priests led the procession, holding tapers that glowed like halos in the darkness. Spectators looked up the street, craning their necks to see the ornate silver reliquary of the patron saint. The carabinieri faced that way, too, their plumed hats in a line, their horses shifting on polished hooves.
Only a bearded man looked away, down the street. Nobody noticed him in the shadows behind the crowd. He kept his eye on the wealthy families privileged to stand on the Quattro Canti, or Four Corners, which was the intersection of Palermo’s two most important streets: Via Toledo, extending to the harbor, and Via Maqueda, bisecting the capital.
The procession moved down the street, and the crowd’s fervor intensified, anticipating the reliquary. People kissed pictures of the young saint, held roses up to her, and cheered Viva Palermo e viva Santa Rosalia! Among the privileged on the Quattro Canti, the husbands surged forward to see better and the wives remained behind with the children.
The bearded man threaded his way to a little boy standing with his mother at the back of the Quattro Canti. He snuck up behind the boy and waited for the moment to pounce.
The saint’s reliquary popped into view, and the crowd erupted in shouting, cheering, and weeping. The boy’s mother burst into pious tears, and the bearded man made his move. He pulled a marionette from under his cloak and showed it to the boy. The boy reached for the marionette, and in one cruel motion, the man grabbed the boy and flung his cloak over him. The clamor of the crowd devoured the boy’s startled cry. The marionette dropped to the cobblestones.
The man ran away with the boy. The mother looked around for her son. She called him but didn’t see him anywhere. She whirled around, beginning to panic, then screamed. It was as if he had been swallowed by the crowd. She would remember this moment for all of her days.
The man jumped onto a bay mare and rode off with the boy. He galloped from the city proper and raced past prickly pear cacti, cypresses, and olive trees on a road illuminated by a crescent moon.
In time, he approached a dilapidated building set off by itself, a boxy, broken shadow in the night. It was the Ospizio di Santa Teresa, a mad house that held lunatics, lepers, and the poor.
The man entered the building’s courtyard and halted the mare. He dismounted and threw the crying child over his shoulder, then banged on the door, which was opened by a guard. The kidnapper handed the boy over with a sack of ducats, then left.
The guard pocketed the ducats and took the boy inside the madhouse. The place was dark at this hour, though it was never quiet. The wails, rants, and cries of a hundred lunatics echoed throughout its stone walls. The guard crossed the entrance hall with the boy and entered the kitchen, where the only illumination came from the moon filtered through a dirty window.
“Sit, boy!” The guard dumped the boy onto the wooden table.
“Mamma?” the boy whispered, teary. “Where’s Mamma?”
“She doesn’t want you anymore.” The guard picked up a knife, its sharp blade glinting in the moonlight.
“No!” The boy scrambled backward, terrified the guard would stab him. Instead, the guard used the knife to cut his own finger, drawing blood.
“Look what you did, boy! You cut me!”
“I didn’t! Mamma! Papa!”
The guard picked up the boy, left the kitchen, and crossed the entrance hall. He reached the stairs and descended into a gloom that reeked of mice and chamber pots. He lumbered down a hallway lined with the cells of the male lunatics. The walls were of crumbling plaster, and the metal doors dented from within.
“Renzo? Renzo?” one of the lunatics shouted.
“Renzo, I’m hungry!” shouted another.
“Let me out! Please, I beg you!”
The guard reached the end of the hall and stopped at an open door, scattering the rats. He entered a cell that contained only a chamber pot and the frame of a bed with no mattress. A crucifix hung on the wall above an iron chain that ended in a leg manacle. A small window, set oddly high, admitted moonlight through its bars.
The guard tossed the boy onto the floor and picked up the manacle, realizing it was sized for an adult, not a child. He would have to come back with a rope.
“Mamma!” the boy called out, sobbing.
The guard whacked him across the face, knocking him unconscious.
“Mamma!” the lunatics shouted. “Mamma!”
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A printable PDF with an interview with Lisa, the book club questions, and a recipe for Traditional Sicilian “S” Cookies to enjoy while you read Loyalty. Download Now »
QUESTIONS FOR BOOK CLUBS
- Sicily’s rugged landscape plays a central role in the novel. How do you think various characters— such as Lucia, Franco, Alfredo, and Gaetano—were shaped by their surroundings? In what way does the landscape serve as a metaphor for the often brutal conditions of life in Sicily in the 1800s?
- There is a wide range of marital relationships in Loyalty. How would you compare and contrast the marriages of Mafalda and Turi, Roberto and Bruna, Gaetano and Maria? Do any of these marital dynamics shed light on the others?
- What do you think was the biggest turning point for Franco in his journey toward becoming a mafioso? Was there a crucial scene which, if it had progressed slightly differently, could have changed his path? Did you sympathize with him at any point? If so, did you stop sympathizing with him as the novel progressed? Is he a hero or a villain?
- Why do you think the novel is titled Loyalty? What role does loyalty play in the lives of each of the main characters and how effectively does it govern their actions? Which characters are more loyal than others? Which are less loyal? How does loyalty in the context of a domestic family relate to loyalty as it is expected within a Mafia family? Is loyalty different from blind faith, and when does it become pernicious?
- The lives of Franco, Lucia, Gaetano, Alfredo, and Dante have separate starts in this novel, but over time they intertwine and inform one another. Which meetings between characters do you think were the most important? How do you think these characters would have developed if they had never come into contact with one another?
- Gaetano leads a double life for much of this novel, torn between his duty to justice and his duty to his family. Which types of duty clash most in your daily life, and how do you navigate your priorities? Do you agree with the way Gaetano navigated his own conflict?
- If you read the Author’s Note, you learned that many scenes in the novel were based on real-life settings. Which of these locations would you most want to visit, and why?
- Scottoline’s Fiorvanti family is fictional, but the origins of the Mafia are depicted accurately in this book, reflecting “legal, social, political, and even agricultural factors,” as mentioned in the Author’s Note. How did the depictions of the rise of the Mafia in Loyalty affect your understanding of that criminal organization? How did it change your perspective on more current depictions of the Mafia in popular culture, such as in The Godfather movies? What did you learn that most surprised you?
- As a former lawyer, Scottoline is interested in exploring in all her novels where the law comes into conflict with justice and how law can even thwart justice, which seems paradoxical. Where did you see law and justice conflicting in this book, and what did you think of the various characters’ decisions when they were forced to choose between one or the other?
- Franco vows to buy Violetta’s erbanetti every month for the rest of his life, and does so. What does this tell you about him? What have been the longest-standing promises in your life, and what do they mean to you? What kind of sacrifices do they take to maintain?
- The novel spans many years, most notably with a fifteen-year break in the middle. How did the main characters—Franco, Lucia, Dante, Alfredo, and Gaetano—change during this time? Did any of them change in ways you didn’t expect?
- The book closes by stating that the most precious of all things is “a loving family.” To what extent did the central characters in Loyalty have loving families? How might their development have been altered if they had had different families? What did you think about how they created their families?
- The novel ends on a happy scene, with the birth of Lucia and Dante’s baby. But in the previous chapter, we learn that the Mafia in Sicily has only just begun its reign. What do you think will happen to each of the novel’s remaining central characters after the book ends? How do you think the Mafia will continue to affect their lives, and how can love forge hope in troubled times?