In 1982, Michele Balistreri is an angry young police captain who holds bureaucracy, religion and politics in almost as much contempt as he holds himself. Good thing there's plenty of partying, alcohol and willing women to quiet his demons. However, when he mishandles the disappearance and murder of a beautiful young woman he'd had designs on, his life is changed forever. By 2005, he's living on anti-depressants, decaf coffee and rations out both his cigarettes and alcohol (and sex isn't something he wants to allow himself any longer either). He's a walking attempt at penitence with nothing to believe in. A slew of murdered young women gives him the will to do more than exist, but when the murders become too reminiscent of his earlier professional and moral failure, he has to ask himself how much the truth is worth.

The Italy of 1982 is decadent, and you can feel how someone young and with something to prove would find that Italy, with its easy beauty and luxury, frustrating. It was however, filled with promise, even if Balistreri can't recognize it. The Italy of 2006 is just as corrupt but now it's stagnant. If Italy was fighting for its soul in 1982, by 2006 its fights are about power and the big ones are orchestrated. The Italy portrayed here is is decaying from the inside out, and now the foreign faces that fill it aren't tourists but the immigrants it both depends on and scorns. This novel is as much an examination of Italy and the people in it vying for power as it is a mystery/thriller.

I figured out the villain (or is it villains?) and the dominant motivations pretty quickly, but those were the easy questions to answer. How it was done and everyone who was involved- and why- were the bigger mysteries, and watching Balistreri and his team unwind the puzzle was engrossing. Before I was halfway through I was unable to put it down and spent the better part of a day finishing it.

Recommended for fans of international mysteries and thrillers

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