A disgraced doctor’s ticket to redemption requires him to rescue a young man even more lost than he is in this slice of noir first served in Italy in 1966 and finally translated into English.
After helping a dying patient into the great beyond, Duca Lamberti was struck off the medical register and sentenced to three years in prison. But he didn’t lose all his friends, and now one of them, Milan’s Superintendent Luigi Carrua, has set him up with a new job upon his release. The assignment seems simple: to wean celebrated engineer Pietro Auseri’s son Davide, 22, from the bottle. But Duca immediately sees that normal therapies won’t keep the troubled young man sober for long, and a suicide attempt the first night Duca’s on the job tells him that Davide’s carrying a heavier burden than alcoholism. It’s not long before the boy reveals his terrible secret: He failed to prevent the death of shop assistant Alberta Radelli a year ago, after she hitched a ride with him and they impulsively drove to the countryside and made love. Although Alberta begged this intimate stranger to take her away instantly, that very day, he drove her back toward Milan instead and dropped her at the side of the road, and there she was found, her wrists slit, the following day. Luckily for Davide, Duca, reviewing the evidence surrounding the case, realizes that Alberta’s death was no suicide, and he identifies the best possible therapy for what ails Davide: solving her murder.
The first volume in Scerbanenco’s Milano Quartet is a blast from the past, a sleek, stripped-down reminder of the fast, brutal days of Continental noir. Sensitive souls will notice that the author’s attitude toward the LGBT community has dated in more glaring ways.