This novel has a complex format. In intertwines two timelines: the present day, written in normal past tense, and the WWII era, set in present tense. That part actually works, because it makes it clear where readers are in the story.
The novel starts out really well. The intimate details of the main character’s feelings and actions push us ever deeper into the horror of Fascist Italy and into sympathy with her and her predicament. The present tense brings immediacy to her feelings, and we are carried along with her as she is drawn ever further into the plots of the Partisans. The intrusive atmosphere adds to the sense of tension.
Jump to present-day Genoa, where it seems that Italians are still fighting their own proclivities, as the main character of this plotline fights a modern human trafficking ring.
In-depth research allows the author to paint a wonderful moving picture of the life and agonies of this historic era. However, there is a time to let it go. The steady disruption of detailed description continues into later chapters where it’s more important to move the plot along.
It is a credit to the writer that he mostly pulls off this juggling act, but in the end, the complexity of the writing overwhelms the plotline.
For such an experienced writer, I am surprised that Mr. Morchio allows a slippery point of view that switches back and forth in the middle of scenes. Twice in the last paragraph of the story, in fact. So what starts out as interesting complexity becomes muddled uncertainty, and the incredibly clever final plot twist is spoiled by the reader’s complete inability to think back through the story for clues to understand how it happened. “Well, I certainly never saw that coming,” is easy to write. Just don’t give the readers enough information. “Oh, yeah, I should have seen that,” is much more satisfying. It doesn’t happen in this novel. And to add insult to injury, when the big reveal has been made, a character who has been out of the picture for the whole story reveals that she, too, found out the answer the detective was looking for. Should readers be insulted, that we’re so dumb we missed it?
However, we can’t let these small problems spoil our enjoyment. It’s a fine story with a beautifully-described atmosphere and a great ending.
Recommended for fans of Italian Detective novels and WWII tales.(4 / 5)