Title: Sophie’s Playlist: The Gramble Chronicles
Author: Michael Finocchiaro
Genre: Action and Adventure / Thriller
This is a meandering, literary-style story spiced with romance, grit, and a touch of adventure as it covers the multiple storylines of three characters—Gramble, Zoe, and Samuel—as they explore a kaleidoscope of human experiences.
On the thriller side, there is the story of Gramble, a member of the Bureau of Indian Affairs who has been investigating Florida tribal ties with the mafia for years. He eventually transfers to the FBI, but he’s still drawn to Miami and the troubles that he feels are hidden just below the polished surface of casinos and “legal business.”
His work leads him to trying to track down Angel Cortida, a mid-level boss in a drug cartel that has had dealings with his cousin, Samuel, through his marijuana-raising, party-addicted half-brother. Samuel has been on the run ever since his half-brother got him a job working with the 3-D printing side of the operation, scared that eventually, the cartel will come calling.
In the meantime, Gramble and Samuel cross paths with Zoe, a dynamic woman with a difficult past of her own. She grew up in Miami with Gramble, but she now lives in Paris, where Samuel works. At one point, she owed one of Angel’s loan companies money, and she was able to settle the debt in exchange for a “favor”…one that haunts her still.
The chapters flow in a stylistic way, with the songs from “Sophie’s Playlist” introducing each one, indicating a change of mood and direction. Though the dialogue feels a bit stilted, it works with the overall effect of the story to create shifting patterns, where precise details are juxtaposed with feelings and reality slowly breaks through the fog of the mundane to touch the characters and transform their lives.
And there is quite a bit of focus on sexuality in the story. All the characters are sexually-active or at least aware, and there is some language that might be seen as offensive. A number of settings are visited over the course of the tale, including one of the levels of purgatory as we follow along the musings of one of Samuel and Gramble’s relatives, but they are more of suggestions than detailed places, a backdrop for the mood rather than a distinct feature in their own right.
The timeline can be hard to follow, and the work would benefit from editorial polish in terms of flow and grammar. However, the patchwork-feel of the scenes creates a very specific flavor, inviting readers to sample how one can get trapped in the past and the euphoria that comes of living in the present.
The book’s narration is almost poetic, reading more like a mood poem than a typical story as concepts from one chapter flow effortlessly into the next. It’s a unique piece that will likely appeal to literary readers or those who read for what the words and scenes will mean to them, personally, in a reader-response sort of way rather than those who like to follow a particularly strong thread or plot.
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