The modestly impressive debut of a sternly likable Italian policeman/sleuth: Comissario Trotti, middle-aged detective in a provincial city near Milan--an unflashy fellow with a loving teenage daughter and a sullen, straying wife. Trotti's first appearance is set during the time of Aldo Moro's kidnapping, and late-20th-century Italy's terrorist-shadowed lifestyle is gently, insistently underscored throughout. (""We live in a country that makes monsters out of human beings,"" one of the characters tells Trotti.) The two seemingly unrelated cases at hand: the kidnapping of six-year-old Anna Ermagni, daughter of a taxi driver; and the discovery, piece by piece, of the body of an aging prostitute. Trotti concentrates on the kidnapping--even after Anna is (very oddly) returned unharmed. . . and after the higher-ups have ordered him to end the investigation. His sleuthing leads him to focus on a red Citroen involved in the kidnapping--a car once owned by the city's Communist mayor! So there are political pressures galore as Trotti (distracted by his wife's arrest in a local gambling-den/nightspot) persists, eventually linking the murder with the kidnapping. . . and with the radical tendencies shown by the offspring of city bigwigs. More convincing in ambience than similar recent offerings (Timothy Holme, Magdalen Nabb) and nicely balanced between shapely plot-twists and muted, offbeat character portraits: the low-key but quietly engrossing start of a new police-procedural series.