A vaporish novel of murder among expatriates in a little Italian village--more enervating chichi decadence from English author Fleetwood (A Dance to the Glory of God, The Redeemer, A Young Fair God, etc.). The village of Santa Croce, on Italy's Ligurian coast, is an unspoiled Eden--except for the likes of the narrator, 12-year-old Peter; his wealthy mother, Nina; ineffectual father, Dick; and other wealthy British/American/French expatriates who flock there for the sunny scenery. They're all so sophiscated that the hatchet murder of Edith, one of the foreign community's prominent members, drives them only to new heights of cocktail-party chatter, although the drowning of Janet--girlfriend of another member of the community--does give them pause. But Peter's prying eyes discover that Janet was killed by Edward (Edith's lover), because Janet knew that Edith had been killed by none other than Elsie, a quiet, middle-aged artist who stood to inherit Edith's not inconsiderable estate. With Peter's parents (who are divorcing) away, Elsie confesses her guilt to Peter, abuses him sexually, and is in the act of literally nailing him to a homemade cross when Peter is saved by a phone call--his father has been killed in a car accident. Peter, with the instincts of a born politician, covers up Elsie's insanity, and his mother comes to take him away to America. A silly, murky coming-of-ager, with lots of heavy-handed atmospherics.