Debut novel in which a child’s kidnapping sparks years-old Corsican rivalries and hatreds.
Mathieu Aron hated the insular world he’d grown up in, but since his accidental death three years ago, his widow Alice has returned repeatedly to the village of Santaros because she feels closer to him there than anywhere. This trip, however, is different, as she learns the day after her arrival when her son Sam vanishes at high noon from the town square. He’s been kidnapped, she insists to police commissaire Antoine Stuart, exiled from Paris to this way-station at the edge of the earth. Stuart mobilizes his force and casts his net over the island, but keeps a determined lid on news reports to the mainland. The result is a claustrophobic intensity in which only Corsican intrigues matter, and every Corsican knows everything about every other. Even Alice knows that Coco Santini, the island’s criminal leader for the past 20 years, is the likeliest person to help her get a line on Sam, and she’s willing to overlook the probable costs to her to enlist the strongman’s help. Sure enough, Santini soon identifies Sam’s abductor as a Portuguese interloper, advises Alice to pay the amateurishly low ransom he’s demanded, and even offers his services as a go-between. Genre fans will know the payoff can’t possibly be that easy, and they’ll be right, thanks to a new twist that sends the kidnapping into darker waters than ever. Through it all, Wadham writes with a powerfully touching lack of sentiment about the shifting alliances her characters are forced to pursue, even though she sometimes cuts off so much along with the sentiment that revelations of deeper feelings can be hard to swallow.
What emerges most triumphantly is the portrait of Corsica as a nightmarishly self-enclosed world where anything can happen—and where, sooner or later, everything does.