Blind shut-in Simone Martini senses excitement, danger, and even colors in the sounds of provincial Bologna. Simone, always ready to explain the yellow holes Miles Davis blows on his trumpet or the soft and supple sound of a pink voice, listens to jazz or his scanner, sometimes both at once, every waking hour. But it’s up to another, anonymous character nicknamed The Iguana to provide darker confessions of torment, bloodlust, violence, and violation. Rookie police detective Grazia Negro puts her promising career in jeopardy when she asserts that there’s a serial killer on the loose targeting local university students. Grazia’s stodgy bosses are skeptical of her high-tech methods and openly disdain the “big-city” concept of criminal profiling. But when the student bodies begin to pile up, ritualistically brutalized, the top brass gladly hand her the reins of the investigation. The killer is tagged with the Iguana moniker for his practice of shedding his identity with each new victim. Grazia’s youth, a liability in her routine police work, proves an asset in her probe of late-night hangouts. She turns up no solid leads, however, until Simone overhears The Iguana on his scanner luring a gullible victim to her death.
Frequent shifts of perspective enliven the slight but stylish narrative of Lucarelli’s 11th noir novel, the first translated into English. But conventional heroine Grazia, sharing the story with two more distinct and candid characters, can’t compete for the reader’s interest. The center does not hold.