Two police investigations—one in 1962, the other in 2001—converge on a sect that may front a political organization threatening Italy and the rest of Europe.
A thriller with the name “Ishmael” in its title gives one pause, as, so it happens, does its plot, which centers on a plan to assassinate Henry Kissinger. Kissinger is no de Gaulle, and this Italian author’s US debut is, alas, no The Day of the Jackal or Moby Dick. Genna crosscuts between two storylines, both played out in a dispiriting Milan. The first, set in 1962, follows Inspector David Montorsi as he searches for the murderer of a four-year-old whose mangled body was left at the site of a memorial for WWII partisans. Montorsi soon suspects that his department wants to cover up the incident: his office is searched, then his superiors take him off the case. Working on his own, he teams up with a helpful reporter, who then turns up murdered. Worst of all, Montorsi’s pregnant, adulterous wife is also taken out in one of many scenes that some will find repellent for their psychological, sexual, and physical violence. The second story concerns Inspector Guido Lopez, who, in 2001, tries to head off an assassination of Kissinger. Lopez’s superiors try but fail to keep him away from the case. Numbing his feelings with illicit drugs, Lopez begins to close in on a sect that dins “Ishmael is great” several times too many. Eventually, the two investigations and two inspectors meet up and uncover a plot that’s enough to make a resolute paranoid scoff. Genna, perhaps under Hemingway’s spell, writes terse descriptions of physical actions, which in this case only adds to the general monotony.
Like jets in a holding pattern, the plotlines drone on and on.