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The Last Enemy: A Commissario Cenni Investigation Hardcover – May 1, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Commissario Alessandro Cenni delves into the secret lives of the members of the aristocratic Casati family in Assisi, Italy, after their American niece is murdered during Holy Week in Brophy's rock-solid debut. When Brooklyn transplant Rita Minelli turns up dead in the family cemetery vault, Cenni interrogates her relatives, who were not pleased when she came to live with them and don't seem especially sorry to see her go. Cenni is positive that one of the Casatis is the murderer; his only question, considering that each appears to have had either motive or the means, is who. The deeper he probes, the more this family makes the Borgias look well adjusted. This well-paced murder mystery carries the reader along even after the identity of the culprit becomes clear. Believable narrative twists combined with excellent characterization, rich dialogue and a finely depicted setting will please lovers of old-style deductive detective fiction. (May)
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From Booklist

Unlike Tuscany, Rome, and Sicily, Umbria has tended to be underserved by the recent boom in Italian crime novels. That changes with this new series from first-novelist Brophy, an American who has lived in Italy for many years. Set in Assisi and starring Alessandro Cenni, a maverick commissario with the Italian state police, the novel concerns the murder of an American during Holy Week. The victim, niece of a powerful Assisi family, had made no shortage of enemies since arriving from Brooklyn, but Cenni's investigation is roadblocked from the get-go by the formidable right-wing connections of the Casati clan. But the jeans-clad, bedroom-eyed, unmarried Cenni never met a bureaucracy he wasn't willing to stampede, and the fireworks begin. Brophy has a good feel for characters—Cenni's colleagues, family members, and adversaries are all full-fledged personalities—and she turns Assisi's landscape, religion-soaked history, and near-impregnable insularity into powerful tools for generating a foreboding tone. Cenni is sure to please fans of David Hewson's Nic Costa, and all readers of Italian mysteries will want to add Umbria to their literary itineraries. Ott, Bill

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569474591
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569474594
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,405,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Brophy's terrific writing seamlessly immerses the reader in her story. Be prepared to read it in only a few sittings because you won't want to put it down. But it isn't just a page-turner. The characters are multi-dimensional with quirks and imperfections that not only endear them to the reader (and sometimes repulse the reader) but make the reader think. I loved her use of Umbria and the city of Assisi and Italian politics, art and culture - no gratuitous descriptions of lovely architecture and countryside or trite comments on food and art, but rather the action and intrigue are woven into the characters living in the place such that the mood of the city and life there comes alive realistically and moves the plot along. I'm looking forward to the next installment.
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Format: Hardcover
The Last Enemy is a terrific read, an Italian police procedural that caught me up in a conflict between turning its pages fast and slowing down to savoring its luscious tastes, fascinating vignettes, and sights full of Umbrian local color. From its very first chapter, where the Penitente parade winds its way through the streets of Assisi and we learn of Count Casati's childhood failures and subsequent treatment of his own family (which includes the murder victim), we are hooked.

The story is told with an Austen-like wry wit from the point of view of its appealing and sensitive but sexy Police Commission Alessandro Cenni, whose fiancé had been kidnapped years ago by political terrorists. This is what has spurred him into his work with the State Police, and the novel's back-story promises many engaging return runs. Brophy's lush prose makes its host of vivid characters come alive in all their quirky individuality: Rita Minelli, the murder victim, the priest with whom she had an affair, the Count and Countess Casati and their daughter Artemesia, one of the first women curators of a regional art museum, the Croatian immigrant Sophie who tends the cemetery where Rita's body is found. Some characters, I hope we meet again, including Elena and Piero, his seconds in command, Cenni's twin brother Renato, and even Cenni's cat, Rachel, with her late night wake-up ritual. This is a must-read and a new name to watch out for avidly.
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Format: Hardcover
Brophy gives an excellent sense of place in this novel. Having studied in Rome for several years, her impressions of Italians were right on; her descriptions of Assisi and Umbria were vivid. The story was engaging as were the characters. My biggest quibble is that her descriptions of Catholicism were inaccurate. A few examples: Good Friday (an essential element in the story) is not the holiest day of the year (it's Easter); there is never a Mass on Good Friday (It's the only day of the year that there isn't one); and there would never be a first Communion on the same day as the ordination of a bishop. Also, a minor slip: She gives the temperature at one point in Fahrenheit, not Celsius.

Overall, though, this story will breeze you along and give a satisfiying read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Last Enemy" is the first book in Grace Brophy's Commissario Alessandro Cenni Investigation series and it is a knockout debut effort. Set principally in the Umbrian cities of Assisi and Perugia, "The Last Enemy" is a complex, layered murder mystery that is populated with wonderful, well-developed characters and a taut story line that barrels through right to the book's epilogue.

The story revolves around the return of an Italian-American woman, Rita Minelli, to her dead mother's Umbrian homeland. The woman is subsequently murdered after she imposes on the hospitality of her aristocratic and snobbish Italian relatives, occupying a prized room in their in their Medieval palazzo in Assisi long beyond the acceptable three days. When Rita Minelli turns up dead in the family burial vault, her Italian relatives react strangely to the death. The story moves on from that weirdly staged crime to reveal almost a dozen murder suspects with strong motives for the ultra-cool Commissario Cenni to sort through before uncovering the true killer or killers.

Along with a great story line, author Brophy provides a rich portrait of Assisi and Perugia and an insightful look into contemporary Italian politics and society. Brophy knows a lot about the country and its people and has built that knowledge and an obvious affection for Italy into a fine story of murder, sexual intrigue, and dysfunctional family behavior.

This is an interesting read--great fun throughout--and promises the potential of a wonderful series of books. With the great losses of Michael Dibdin and Magdalen Nabb in the past year, Grace Brophy's arrival on the Italian crime scene is timely and very heartening for readers who love the locale.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time, combining a twisted plot with even more twisted suspects. The characters are wonderful, with villains on both sides of the law. I love Assisi, and the beautiful ancient town is such an interesting part of the whole experience. Sit down with a cappuccino and a biscotti and enjoy a great read. I can't wait to see what lies in store next for Alex Cenni and company.
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