Ferocity resists classification as a whodunnit, focusing instead on the corruption coursing through a society desperate to seem more moneyed than it is ... The narrative jumps between present-day and historical interactions and events, lending it a filmic quality whose scenes build an overall portrait of the wider vanity, greed and violence that led to Clara’s death. It’s a work of startling energy and structural precision, an ambitious novel whose linguistic brilliance is frequently at odds with the twists and turns of Michele’s quest for the truth.
...[an] inconvenient, untamed, but ultimately brilliant novel ... one of his main projects in this aptly titled novel is plumbing the depths of our wildness, uncovering once and for all the line that separates man from beast. His conclusions — like his vivid prose and tangled plot — are intoxicatingly complex and discomfitingly circular ... The above makes Lagioia’s plot sound hard-boiled, but it is actually meandering, philosophical, and dizzyingly layered. I Am Love meets Toni Morrison, The Godfather meets Love Medicine. The layers not only advance the story but also complicate our understanding of this world of men on the brink and women surrendering to despair ... one of the weaknesses of the novel [:] Because Clara dies in the first chapter, very few pages are devoted to her point of view and the ones that are suffer from a frustrating brand of lyricism doing little to mask the fact that her actions are often contradictory to the point of absurdity.
Though Ferocity adopts the trappings of a stylish thriller, it has the ambitions of a social novel. Here is where Clara’s real usefulness as a device emerges. Like the baseball in Don DeLillo’s Underworld, her role is to link characters who would otherwise have been difficult to bring together ... But having assembled this material, Lagioia doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. In place of insight, his characters dispense banalities about globalization and the facts of industrial pollution. The book’s main target is the corruption of Italy’s ruling class by decades of neoliberal economic policies. This would be a good subject for a novel; but rather than pursue it, Ferocity retreats into abstraction. Its message, underscored by the interstitial vignettes of predator and prey in the animal world that punctuate the action, is that life is a jungle. Man is wolf to man. The strong take what they want and the weak suffer — although perhaps it is possible to gain a temporary reprieve from this state through the love of a good woman. Did another beautiful female character have to die just for this?