A pair of apparently unrelated men gone missing during the hottest month of the Florentine year pose another mystery for policeman-turned–private investigator Sandro Cellini (A Murder in Tuscany, 2011, etc.).
Very little happens in Florence in August. All the locals who have the means to do so have left while the city bakes in the summer heat. Among the departed, one man stands out: bank branch manager Claudio Josef Brunello, the lover of heavily pregnant chambermaid Anna Niescu, who’s frantic to find out what’s become of him since the last time he kissed her goodbye. At first, it seems that Claudio has vanished for the best reason of all: because he’s dead, killed and dumped at the eastern edge of the city. Dramatically contradictory identifications by Anna and the bank manager’s unexpected wife, Irene, however, indicate that Anna’s lover disappeared for an even better reason: because he never existed, at least not as Claudio Brunello—he was only masquerading as him. While Sandro works to put a more accurate name to the father of Anna’s baby and track him down, Roxana Delfino, a teller in Claudio’s branch, becomes increasingly uneasy about the disappearance of the nameless man who came to the bank regularly to deposit the receipts from the Carnevale, the neighborhood’s pornographic cinema. Apart from the elaborate parallels drawn between Sandro and Roxana, from their devotion to their jobs to their complicated feelings about their families, how are the two disappearances that concern them connected? Kent unfolds her tale so slowly and methodically, at least until the incongruously melodramatic ending, that many readers, presumably not laboring in the August heat, will beat both Sandro and Roxana to the solution.
Though she lacks Donna Leon’s sly humor and her keen insight into the political implications of individual bad behavior, Kent covers much of the same territory in even more ceremonious prose.