The Ballad of Johnny Carlo by James Michels

Updated: Jul 18





"You and I are going down there," she declared, her voice full of death. "But this time, we bring an army." An excerpt from page 286.


James Michels's The Ballad of Johnny Carlo is a book that seductively held me captive until I finish indulging my relatable emotions in it. After experiencing James's first book, Ice Rising, I've become enamored with his storytelling techniques, his writing style, and his novels in general, it has a feature that makes it reads interestingly, literary, and brilliantly.


This book detailed the life of the protagonist, Johnny Carlo who was a notorious criminal in New York. Johnny was a deadly killer, who ceases human lives as if they meant nothing to him, without mercy and compassion. He has been working with some crew of gangsters famously known as the trios, until the day he was assigned to do a dreadful work, kill a cop and exterminate someone dear to him. Johnny's refusal of this led him to betray his people, it was against his code, and he began to feel hostile towards the same people he used to love, and cared for; his best friend, Vincent, and his lovely but heartless girlfriend, Aurora. They'd pulled a trigger against one another before the cob's siren set them apart.


Johnny, in order to stay away from his shits, resort to staying far away from New York, an attempt to keep him away from the trios and his old lifestyle. A friend had helped him get a job in a mechanic shop in New Orleans where he's set to start a new life. In his new city, he met a new lover, Licia, who is the daughter of a well-known crime Lord whom Johnny had known during his criminal years. They'd fallen in love swiftly with one another, each covering the hidden part of their lives from one another. The aftermath of this wasn't palatable at all, it was suspenseful as the story unfolds in a way that had my heart beating in curiosity of knowing what happens next, it left me with a switch of emotions, The Ballad of Johnny Carlo uncommonly caught me.


The unexpected happened, it was sad that Johnny got to know about Licia's father shockingly, groups of irrational gangsters had set the house of his to-be wife's father on fire, they'd killed his men, and set him ablaze while attempting to drive his luxury car. Luckily, Frank Abraham survived it with some minor injuries that were medically taken care of. However, this set the once repented Johnny in another state of panic, he had realized that if his love for Licia would last long, then, he'd have to find out who is behind Frank's calamity. Johnny met with Brutus, a loyal servant of Frank, whose characterization and loyalty, I admired so much in this novel, they'd began to take revenge on the perpetrators, leaving Licia, a respected cop out of it.


Matters escalated when Brunetto Latore and Tommy Scarponi were killed, this was immediately followed by the death of Dominick, and the attempted death of Vincent and Aurora which Johnny failed at, however, this sent shivers of hatred, betrayal, and deceitfulness, from Vincent and Aurora toward the Abrahams and his cohorts, having known what the crew is up to, they'd prepared themselves to fully storm New Orleans from New York, but, I wouldn't love to reveal more about the story in an attempt to make this review a spoiler-free.


I'd love the to-be readers of The Ballad of Johnny Carlo to check out what happened eventually, how was this case resolved? who was left alone and who died? What would Licia do if she realized that the man whom she had been having affairs with so far was a notorious killer? how would the Abrahams protect themselves from the upcoming tragedy? This novel took a road of action, betrayal, sorrow, and lots more that it had me glued to the novel until I finished indulging my emotions in it, I marveled at the placement of scenarios and events in it, it was gasping and beyond description.


Undoubtedly, James Michels proves himself to be a fantastic crime thriller writer, and I'm now a fan of his works, there is something unique about his writing style, which is the fact that it has a trait to keep you engrossed until the last page is reached, his story-telling techniques are scenic, making me catch the scenario of each scene, and plot twist in my head as if I was watching a movie. The Ballad of Johnny Carlo will make a great film if enacted, and I can't wait to read more of Michels's future work. This book can be thought of as a literary approach to criminology. I recommend it to lovers of crime thrillers and literature at large.

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