War, honor and the undervaluation of women, circa 1900.
When Lionel Scampion, a senior member of the British consulate assigned to Naples, is knifed in broad daylight for no apparent reason, Seymour of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch (A Dead Man in Barcelona, 2008, etc.) is sent to investigate. So as not to alert the Neapolitans, he brings along Chantale, his stunning Moroccan fiancée, and explains that they’ve come to enjoy a pre-honeymoon vacation. Scampion, a keen cyclist, may have been killed by an overzealous racing competitor, but Seymour thinks a lottery ticket found in his shorts could lead to a different motive. The detective is also intrigued by Scampion’s meetings with a married Marchesa and his interest in an Arab widow denied the pension due her because her Italian husband died fighting in the Libya campaign. Even more suspect are the Camorra, the Neapolitan Mafia and Sursum Corda, a secret society that champions certain political causes. Seymour enjoys his snail-salad lunches, his chats with a mathematician-turned-priest with a gift for picking lottery winners, his mild flirtations with the Marchesa and the views he and Chantale share of the bay at sunset. Meanwhile, plans are laid for a major cycling race pitting the army against the locals; missing bicycle parts turn up in Libya; and the widow gets her pension only after a word from the Camorra, which will demand favors in return.
Glacially slow, but with well-aimed jabs at turn-of-the-century attitudes.