Stefano Maugeri is out on a picnic with his wife and six-year-old son. Falling asleep, he wakes to find no trace of them – just the remains of their al fresco meal. Panicked, he searches for them before calling the police, and when they arrive, it doesn’t take them long to find his wife’s decapitated body. Of his son, only his shoes have been left behind. Convinced that Maugeri is responsible, the police arrest him, thinking it an open and shut case.
But one officer, Captain Rovere, isn’t convinced, and he encourages his Deputy Captain, Colomba Caselli – who has been out of action following a traumatic experience – to investigate, assisted by Dante Torre – a somewhat prickly individual who has proved himself to be an expert in finding missing people.
But Dante’s ability stems from a dark past – when he was six years old, he was kidnapped and held prisoner in a silo for 11 years by a man he only ever knew as the Father. The police believed that the Father committed suicide following Dante’s escape, but Dante has never believed this, and has lived in fear ever since.
Beginning to investigate, and unable to avoid the obvious parallels between this case and Dante’s own past, Colomba and Dante begin to find hints that Dante’s worst fears are confirmed – the Father is still alive, and he’s still active. But will anyone believe them?
The characterisation in Kill the Father is absolutely top-notch, and I loved the (largely platonic) relationship that develops between Colomba and Dante. Both have troubled pasts – Dante from his time in the silo, which would have a significant effect on anyone, but also Colomba who has been off-duty, although not officially resigned, since a case nine months previous which resulted in “the Disaster”, as Colomba refers to it. Unsure what her future holds, she now suffers from PTSD, and she controls her infrequent panic attacks as well as she can. Their respective pasts mean that they form something of an unlikely bond, based partly upon the knowledge that each has suffered in ways that most of us are lucky enough not to.
Kill the Father is set in Dazieri’s native Italy, mostly in and around Rome. Not a city that I’m familiar with, I thought that this was brilliantly evoked in the way that only a local person can – it gets beneath the glossy, tourist veneer, and presents the city as it would be to those who live there. I also found the characters to be fiery and passionate, and (without wanting to stereotype) much as I would expect Italians to be.
At approximately 500 pages, this isn’t a quick read, and plot progresses relatively slowly to many novels where instant gratification seems to be the current trend. I enjoyed this change of pace – there is so much detail in the novel, and the tension ebbs and flows as our protagonists encounter increasingly dangerous situations throughout the course of their investigation. The killer always seems to be at least one step ahead of the duo, and there are several moments when I wasn’t sure that they were going to get out of whichever particular pickle they were in at the time.
Kill the Father is a brilliant police procedural set in Italy, and is the first of Sandrone Dazieri’s novels to be translated into English. It will be published in hardback by Simon & Schuster on 9 February 2017, and is available to buy now as an eBook for the bargain price of £0.99 on Amazon Kindle. Many thanks to Emma Finnigan for providing a copy for review.