Kent, Christobel - 'A Time of Mourning'
This is the author's fifth novel set in and around Florence, Italy and a very atmospheric read it is. Sandro Cellini is a former policeman who left the force under some disgrace but has now set himself up as a private detective after some pressure from his wife. His first client is the elderly wife of an eminent Jewish architect who apparently committed suicide, but she just doesn't seem to believe it. Cellini is reluctant to take the case on, but he needs the money and she is very willing to pay. Cellini very quickly establishes that Claudio, the Jewish architect and lifelong depressive did kill himself by jumping into the freezing November waters of the River Arno. Cellini now has to try to establish why Claudio should do such a thing and he attempts to trace the architect's last hours during the worst rainstorm that Florence has experienced since the floods of 1966. In addition, a young American girl has also gone missing from the City's community of hard-drinking, partying, art-student community and Cellini search becomes more urgent and grimmer by the minute.
Iris March is a room mate and friend of the missing girl Veronica, "Ronnie" to her friends, and she also speaks more Italian than her missing friend. A couple of nights after Ronnie disappears someone breaks into the flat of Ronnie and Iris but doesn't appear to take anything but curiously has unplugged Ronnie's computer. Iris is certain that the flat was broken into and wonders whether it was Ronnie coming back for some clothes. The action moves swiftly on and soon the parallel adventures of Iris hunting for her missing friend and Cellini searching for clues to the mysterious suicide converge and connect and the story dramatically rushes on to the very astonishing conclusion which rather surprised me as the guilty party was very unexpected.
This series of thrillers are special for those of us who have enjoyed and recollect the sights and sounds of Florence but are also fascinated by other parts of Tuscany. But they can also be enjoyed by the non-visitor who just wants to read a engrossing thriller set in a different locality to the usual London or New York settings, that books of this genre generally occupy.
Terry Halligan, England