The death of a woman under suspicious circumstances unites her ex-fiance and her former roommate in a search for the truth.
In Larew’s (Pre-soul Jacky and Other Stories, 2018, etc.) latest book, New Yorker Maxwell Roux does more than mourn the death of his former fiancee, Catari Fontano, at her grandfather’s villa near Milan. He wonders if the 27-year-old part-time model was murdered. The going theory—that Catari had been drinking, walked naked near the pool, slipped, hit hear head, fell in, and drowned—doesn’t hold water. He knows she wasn’t a drinker, and her former roommate Darlene Wolfe concurs. Darlene also scoffs at the notion that Catari could slip into the pool: “She was sure-footed as a mountain goat, though a lot prettier.” If she was murdered, there are several possible killers, including her stepfather, who wanted the villa for his own, and he knew he might inherit it should Catari die before her grandfather passed. The book breaks the fourth wall as Max addresses the reader directly, sometimes promising to give reveals in due time about his beloved former fiancee and her family. The writing can be cloying: “I chose to drink in her beauty selfishly, uninterrupted by greetings, if only for a few minutes of silent adoration,” but several character revelations and plot developments keep the plot from stalling. There’s no opportunity lost for cast members to strip; they swim, parade about the villa, and possibly get murdered while naked. The notion that Catari’s ghost may be appearing by the pool gives the tale an unsettling quality. References to Italy during WWII and discussions of class disparity add heft to the narrative, and yearnings for love lost add a note of melancholy.
A moody, florid mystery in a beautiful setting.