Expat detective tracks a murderer through the fetid streets of Rome.
Fitzgerald’s debut brings little new to its lackluster portrayal of an incongruous lawman. The book opens with the graphic murder of Arturo Clemente, an animal-rights activist who is killed in his apartment just after the departure of his lover, the daughter of a local crime boss. To further complicate matters, Arturo’s widow is a member of parliament related to several other powerful politicians. It’s a potboiling stew for the investigating detective, whose credibility as a character is attenuated by his byzantine back story. Chief Commissioner Alec Blume is from Seattle, which would be unusual for any Italian police officer, let along one of his rank. Flashbacks reveal that Blume moved to Rome with his parents at 15; they were shot during a bank robbery when he was 17, prompting the unexpected fall through the bureaucratic cracks that allowed him to become a cop. Although the short-tempered detective has spent more of his life in Italy than America, he never fits into the vibe of Rome: “His accent, acquired in the schoolyard, was perfect Roman, but a hint of something else lay behind it, a watchfulness, a lack of spontaneity or a slight reticence in his movements. Whatever it was, he put people on their guard.” All the ingredients are there, but the story plods along through an investigation tedious enough to try the patience of even the most earnest procedural enthusiasts. The few high points include some tense encounters with the local crime ring and a burgeoning romance with a prototypically sexy FBI liaison to the American embassy. But if this continues as a series, Blume will need more than his unlikely vocation and his grim disposition to win readers’ affections.
A dour procedural that squanders its fertile setting.