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River of Shadows (Commissario Soneri Investigation) Paperback – September 1, 2011
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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'The real coups of River of Shadows are twofold: the author's trenchant analysis of his country's ignoble past, married to the narrative acumen of a master storyteller' Barry Forshaw, Independent. Independent
About the Author
Valerio Varesi has been the Parma correspondent for La Stampa and La Repubblica. River of Shadows was the first of a series of thrillers featuring Commissario Soneri, now the central figure of one of Italy's most popular television dramas. It was followed in English translation by The Dark Valley, Gold Frankincense and Dust and A Woman Much Missed. Joseph Farrell is Emeritus Professor at the University of Strathclyde. His books include a cultural history of Sicily and biographies of Dario Fo and Leonardo Sciascia. He is also a renowned translator from the Italian, whose translations include works by Leonardo Sciascia, Vincenzo Consolo, Dario Fo and Valerio Varesi. He lives in Glasgow.
Top customer reviews
"He was in his car in front of the Italia, whose shutters had been lowered, and the piercing hoot of an owl reached him from down by the river. Owls called to the dead, he remembered being told. As he drove up the embankment, the bird appeared from among the poplar trees and its call seemed to be aimed at the lamp over the boat club, a faint light shimmering in the mists and looking like an illumination at a vigil or at the recitation of the rosary. He thought, giving his imagination rein, that the owl was chanting for all the lives sacrificed on the river, perhaps even for Tonna, who might be somewhere underwater, or on the sandbanks or in the muddy depths of some inlet."
Don't let the phrase "boat club" suggest anything at all classy. It is little more than a shack with tables, a radio, and a bar, a retreat for working rivermen. The opening chapter is marvelous, showing three old men huddled around their drinks while outside in the night the floodwaters are inexorably rising. Then an old barge, belonging to an elderly misanthrope named Anselmo Tonna, slips its moorings in the pelting rain and disappears into the night. When it runs aground the next day, it is completely empty; the police suspect fraud, or perhaps even murder.
Meanwhile, on the very same day, another elderly man meets his end, falling from a third-floor window of a hospital. Again, murder is suspected, and when the victim turns out to be Decimo Tonna, brother of the missing barge captain, Commissario Soneri treats the two cases as connected. Soneri is one of those policemen in the mould of Inspector Maigret (interesting, because I was reminded strongly of Simenon in the atmospheric opening), who prefers to sit to eat and drink local specialities (such as half-fermented wine and donkey stew), while asking apparently random questions, rather than pursuing a scientific investigation from his office. Soneri is most unlike Maigret, however, in having a fiery girlfriend, a public defender with a kink for having sex in crime scenes and other situations that carry the thrilling risk of discovery.
This case, however, has more to do with the dead and almost-dead than with the lusty and living. The secrets date back to the period in the 1940s when Communist partisans were fighting against the Fascists, with atrocities being committed on both sides. Even today, Italy carries political factionalism to extremes, and the isolated inhabitants of the misty plains of the River Po have long memories....
The geography and general story were fascinating, but I am still not clear who Commissario Soneri is. Perhaps the subsequent novels move deeper into his personality. That is, after all, one of the main pleasures of Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri, whatever the pleasures of being brought into a geography or history.