A procedural novel of art forgery and murder, set in Rome and featuring Alec Blume, Fitzgerald’s Anglo/Italian cop.
Irish artist Henry Treacy has been a longtime resident of Rome and is one of the best draftsmen of his generation—and not a bad colorist to boot—but he uses his special talents in less-than-savory ways, by forging works of art. When he turns up dead in the Piazza de’ Renzi, it’s not clear whether it’s an accident or murder. If the latter, then the foremost suspect seems to be John Nightingale, his art-gallery partner and arranger of the business end of their line of work. Another suspect is the mysterious Manuela, whose true name and identity are tracked down by Blume’s assistant, Caterina Mattiola. Because she’s new to police investigations (having transferred recently from Immigration Affairs to Homicide), Caterina learns the ropes from the experienced and affectedly cynical Blume. Fitzgerald’s clever conceit is that as Caterina learns proper (and occasionally improper) police procedure, the reader learns right along with her. It doesn’t hurt the investigation that Blume’s parents had both been art historians, so he brings an expansive knowledge to his inquiry. One of the nastiest thugs Blume deals with is Colonel Farinelli, a sadistic blimp of a man, and as moral as a raven. Blume has to double- (and sometimes triple-) bluff his adversaries, all of whom are trying to locate an immensely valuable (and real) Velázquez that Treacy has painted over.While Fitzgerald’s plotting is at times overly convoluted, his insight into the workings of the Italian police and Carabinieri is fascinating.