“The worst part isn’t seeing the bodies.…The worst part is breaking the news to the victims’ relatives. Especially if the victims are children.”
In Carofiglio’s (A Fine Line, 2016, etc.) latest, it’s up to Pietro Fenoglio, a middle-aged carabiniere with a penchant for philosophy, to investigate the kidnapping and murder of the young son of Nicola Grimaldi, a powerful crime boss, and determine if it’s part of the violence tearing apart Grimaldi’s organization or just a tragic coincidence. A former anti-Mafia prosecutor, Carofiglio sets his tale in Italy’s Apulia region during the cold, rainy spring of 1992 as Grimaldi’s top lieutenants are turning up dead or missing. Their deaths aren’t a surprise to him; he knows all crime families, eventually, turn on each other. But the boy’s death is different; it should have ended with the ransom money and the boy’s return, not his body dumped in an abandoned well. “It’s like a brainteaser,” Fenoglio tells a colleague. “Whichever way you look at it, it doesn’t make sense.” Carofiglio gives an inside view of Grimaldi’s Società Nostra thanks to police interviews with a Grimaldi turncoat who wants protection from Grimaldi’s wrath. Occasionally these interviews go on too long, but what makes up for that is Carofiglio’s engaging main character. Fenoglio is a sensitive, polished figure who has managed to keep his idealism intact in a career meant to break it; he is as comfortable philosophizing as he is citing the public safety code. When he recalls a joke about a drunkard searching for his keys under a streetlight rather than in the dark street where he lost them, he realizes his search is failing for the same reason: “We look where it’s light, even though that’s exactly how not to solve the problem.”
Solving this case, Carofiglio shows us, requires a leap into the darkness.