Turning to Stone Book Review and Giveaway

I love international thrillers and mysteries. While I have not read the first few books in the Roma Series by author Gabriel Valjan; I was intrigued by the description (and the cover art) for Turning to Stone--the series' 4th book. I am excited to offer both my review of this novel--and offer our readers the opportunity to win a copy of the book at the end of this post in the iReads book tour giveaway.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book for use in my review. All opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this post; but, we may receive slight compensation from affiliate linking within our posts.

Quick Summary of Turning to Stone (Roma Series Book #4). Alabaster Black aka Bianca Nerini returns as an investigation into a public official’s assassination pits Bianca and her friends against a backdrop of financial speculation, female assassins on motorcycles, and the Camorra—the most ruthless of Italian organized crime gangs—in Gabriel Valjan’s TURNING TO STONE, the fourth book of the highly praised Roma series.

En route to a secret meeting, Aldo Giurlani—the regional commissioner of Lombardy in northern Italy and a specialist on organized crime—is assassinated in the middle of a public square.

More mysterious is the package sent to Giurlani’s hand-picked team of five top investigators within the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), the Italian law enforcement agency that investigates illegal financial transactions, from money laundering to drug trafficking. Within the package are five copies of a book entitled Man of Smoke written by Aldo Palazzeschi.

Then there is Bianca’s tenuous online contact with a mysterious online contact known as Loki, who delivers a cryptic message to her, takes on a new twist with the appearance of a brilliant young obsessive-compulsive man who joins her team.

Complicating matters even further, old enemies and, more problematically, Alabaster’s former employer—Rendition, a murky covert U.S. government agency that does more than just investigate financial crimes—still have grudges to bear against her.

As new mysteries unfold, Bianca’s group quickly discovers that Naples might just be the most dangerous city in Italy.

Readers looking for a suspenseful thriller with mysterious twists and turns abounding will love Gabriel Valjan’s TURNING TO STONE.

Valjan flawlessly creates an intricate storyline in Turning to Stone. Having said that I was not familiar with Valjan's characters or writing style; I was a little concerned when I opened the book and discovered a cast of character with their relationships and roles. I was expecting a complicated or even confusing storyline. While the plot of this book is very detailed with a large cast of characters and supporting characters; the complicated storyline develops and resolves seamlessly throughout the many twists and turns of the novel. I would recommend reading the character list--and referring to it later as you read--as the relationships and the interactions do offer value to the overall story. 

Readers will be kept involved in Turning to Stone until the end. This is truly one of those books in which readers find themselves questioning and doubting motives until very late in the book. I enjoyed the fact that I found myself unsure of things until nearly the end. The suspense and uncertainty keep readers guessing--and pull readers deeper into the setting and emotions of the book.

Would I recommend Turning to Stone? This book is a little more complex than many of the books I've read lately--and I loved it! It did require some focus as I settled into the writing--but, the writing style, the character development, the settings and the evolving story held my interest completely. If you enjoy international thrillers with complexity and realistic interactions--I would certainly recommend this book. I have read a number of great books in recent months; but, I think this one just edged itself into the top spot on my list of favorites. While I missed the earlier books in the series by beginning with Turning to Stone; I have already added the first three to my reading list and look forward to more from this author.

Buy the book:  Amazon   Barnes & Noble

For those interested in reading the previous books in the series:


Savvy forensic accountant Alabaster Black is hiding in Rome from her former employer, covert U.S. organization “Rendition.” While there under an assumed name she meets Dante, an investigator, erstwhile explorer and member of the Roma Underground, a band of amateur archaeologists who map the city beneath Rome. With Italian artifacts disappearing at an alarming rate, Alabaster and Dante search for answers and create a trap for the thieves. Through a mysterious online contact Alabaster learns she is being followed, and with her safety at risk she is forced to rethink her chosen alliances and discover hidden truths about herself.

“A provocative thriller with a riveting and surprising plot.”
—M.J. Rose, International bestseller

“...the strong, captivating heroine and an allure of conspiracy and organized crime make this novel an undoubted success.”
—Kirkus Book Reviews

“Conspiracy, double identities, car chases and espionage, all against the backdrop of magical Rome, with its great food and marvelous art history, make this an entertaining, intriguing read.”
—Blogcritics Book Reviews in Brief

WASP’S NEST (Book #2)

In the highly anticipated sequel to Roma, Underground, Bianca returns to the U.S. for her former employer, the covert organization Rendition, to investigate Cyril Sargent and Nasonia Pharmaceutical. Although ambivalent about the assignment and uneasy about her online “friend,” Loki, she is enticed into researching what Sargent is doing with insect genetics that might upset the world of cancer research and treatment. Old friends Farrugia and Gennaro uncover a twisted conspiracy from their past and join Bianca in Boston where they will experience conflicted loyalties, question allies, and confront uncertain enemies, as they’re drawn into the wasp’s nest.

“Again, Valjan successfully conflates multiple sophisticated narratives that bring the past and present together, which the archaeological theme of the last novel also helps accomplish . . . Black is back and just as entertaining as ever.”
—Kirkus Book Reviews

“…a compelling reading, action-packed and with intriguing characters. The plot had plenty of twists and turns, some surprising secrets, and it kept me on the edge of my seat, guessing until the very end.”
—The Book Junkie


Milan. Bianca’s curiosity gets a young university student murdered, but not before he gives her a file that details a secret weapon under development with defense contractor Adastra. Guilt may drive her to find justice for the slain Charlie Brooks, but she is warned by the mysterious Loki to stay away from this case that runs deep with conspiracy. Bianca must find a way to uncover government secrets and corporate alliances without returning Italy to one of its darkest hours, the decades of daily terrorism known as the “Years of Lead.”

“It is even more to Gabriel Valjan’s credit that with Threading the Needle he, as an American, was nonetheless capable of unusual insight into the Misteri Italiani, the Italian Mysteries, without taking any prejudicial standpoint, one way or the other, or putting the blame on anyone, but rather inviting readers to judge for themselves.”

—Claudio Ferrara, Italian journalist and translator

“But after the first few pages, I knew I was committed to the end of the book ... and would be reading the two earlier books…Characters, plot, ideas, background: In Threading the Needle, Valjan weaves it all into an international crime novel worth the read.”

—Beth Kannell of Kingdom Books, a specialty mystery bookshop in northeastern Vermont.

Buy the books here: Amazon

About the Author:

Gabriel Valjan lives in New England, but has traveled extensively, receiving his undergraduate education in California and completing graduate school in England. 

Ronan Bennett short-listed him for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize for his Boston noir, Back in the Day. His short stories and poetry have appeared in literary journals and online magazines.

Connect with the author:   Website     Twitter     Facebook

Enter to Win a the Book Tour Giveaway!
Win 1 of 10 print or 10 mobi copies of Turning to Stone 
(open to both USA & Canada)
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