An exciting thriller of terrorism, psychosis and high-level corruption in Italy, Hewson’s City of Fear is also a barely-veiled political expose of the infamous Gladio network that was created by the CIA’s Alan Dulles in the post-WWII period with the backing of the US and several European governments. The idea of the Gladio network was initially to have a clandestine “stay-behind” network of partisans in place should a Soviet takeover of Italy and Communist encroachment on the rest of Western Europe be attempted. However, the so-called Gladio “partisans” were largely drawn from extreme right-wing Fascist and mafia networks, and while they were given resources, funds, and weapons by government ministries, they operated largely on their own, with but one mandate: to be ready to create a ‘strategy of tension” through terrorist acts against the population, which would in turn demand strong government measures in the name of “homeland security.”
When the Communist Party of Italy became sufficiently popular in the 70s to raise concerns in certain quarters that they might be elected to power, Gladio was apparently reactivated, taking the guise of both right- and leftwing terrorist organizations. Anyone who questioned the origins of these movements—whether lawyers, cops, judges or journalists—were assassinated right and left, until the kidnapping and murder of former prime minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades led to investigations which began to unearth the history and the breadth of this deadly network. In Hewson’s City of Fear, a Gladio terrorist front called the Blue Demon appears after lying quiescent for decades, and begins to sow an atmosphere of panic and chaos in Rome starting with the kidnapping and brutal murder of a mid-level government official, and escalating from there. The fact that a meeting of the G-8, attended by top government leaders from the US, Russia and Europe, is taking place in Rome at the same time, is not coincidence.
Hewson’s main protagonist is Police Detective Nic Costa, who is up against an overtly hostile Italian Ministry of Interior but who is being secretly encouraged by Italian president Dario Sordi—an old friend of Costa’s family–to delve into the connections between the Blue Demon and Gladio. Costa and a small group of tough-minded cops who are more loyal to their protect-and-serve mission than to any of the numerous political splinters running the country, clash violently and repeatedly with those out to protect the Gladio networks at all cost. The action is edge-of-your-seat and, despite the fictional overlay, is sufficiently modeled on history to give the reader—no matter the nationality—chills about how many of these networks in how many countries continue to pull strings behind the scenes today.