AN ENIGMA BY THE SEA by Carlo Fruttero


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One year after English visitor Barbara Graham's son Colin wanders from her side on the beach at the Tuscan town of Gualdana and is recovered by the local carabinieri, and one day after Girolamo Delaude's Fiat collides with Antonio Zeme's Volvo, Delaude disappears during a dark and stormy night, as do Zeme and his manic-depressive wife, Magda. Delaude's beaten body turns up on the coastline, but the only trace of the Zemes is a label from Magda's suitcase found in the Milan train station. Meanwhile, as in the film L'Avventura (one of dozens of tales from Poe to Little Red Riding Hood to which the authors playfully and inertly refer), life goes on for Delaude's most recent lover, the two aging comedians she's latched onto, Magda's fellow-depressive Gabriele Monforti, and the other natives and visitors whose largely futile activities the longtime collaborators catalogue with the archeological precisionthough without the witof Umberto Eco. If all detective stories are archeologies of the present, Fruttero and Lucentini's reductio ad absurdum, like The D. Case (1992), may be a joke on the whole genre. Taken either straight or satirically, though, it's a long slog to some pretty narrow pleasures.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-7011-4843-8
Page count: 406pp
Publisher: Chatto & Windus/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1995