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Published by Maclehose Press, 21 November
2013. ISBN: 978-1-906694-36-4
In a thick fog in the Po Valley
in Northern Italy, there is a crash on the
autostrada involving numerous vehicles some of which contained cattle which
escape and cause chaos. And a badly charred corpse is found lying on the verge.
Inspector Soneri of the Parma
police is in charge of the case. The corpse is later identified as being that
of a young Rumanian woman, Nina Iliescu, her death nothing to do with the
autostrada mayhem but clearly murder. Meanwhile, an elderly Rumanian man is
found dead of natural causes on a coach from Bucharest. He, it transpires, was Nina's
grandfather but why was he coming to Italy? Soneri's investigations lead
him to a camp where Italian gypsies and Rumanian Roma live side by side in a
state of mutual hostility united only by a wall of silence against outsiders.
He also tracks down Nina's various lovers all ensnared by her beauty. But were
they using Nina or was she using them? In a fog of false allegations and and
deceit, paralleled by the pervading fog typical of the region in winter, Soneri
has to clear up the confusion while atthe same time trying to maintain his relationship with his mercurial
lover Angela. He strikes up a friendship with the elderly Marchese Sbarazzo,
once a rich aristocrat but now a penniless vagrant, with a penchant for gnomic
philosophizing which sometimes obscures, sometimes enlightens Soneri's search
for the truth. In contrast, the observations of the plain-speaking
investigating magistrate, Dottoressa Marcotti, provide welcome moments of
An interesting addition to the growing number of Italian crime writers now
available in English translations who cast light on lesser-known aspects of
their country's society.
Other Soneri novels by the author: River
of Shadows and The Dark Valley
Reviewer: Radmila May
Valerio Varesi has
been the Parma
correspondent for La Stampa and La Repubblica. Gold, Frankincense and Dust is
the third in a series of thrillers featuring Commissario Soneri.