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River of Shadows

A Commissario Soneri Investigation by Valerio Varesi

The landscape of the River Po features strongly in River of Shadows
The landscape of the River Po features
strongly in River of Shadows
This is a novel where the setting can truly said to be the main character in the story.

Much of the action takes place along the banks of the River Po, at a point on the waterway that is an equal distance between the cities of Cremona and Parma.

Commissario Soneri finds himself drawn to the cold, foggy landscape, where incessant rain has made the waters rise to dangerous heights. He is trying to solve a mystery concerning two brothers, now old men, who were both known to be fascists in the past. One has been found dead, apparently having fallen from a window at a hospital in Parma and the other has gone missing, believed to have been out on the river on his barge in the bad weather.

Soneri spends a lot of time musing over clues in the warmth of restaurants while he samples the local food and wine. He is also distracted by having to please his girlfriend, Angela, an unpredictable avvocatessa - lawyer - who turns up at inconvenient moments during the book.

He talks to the old people determined to live their lives and earn their living in this inhospitable landscape. He finds it is a community where people are still divided from each other by the events of the Second World War that took place in the area. He is constantly being told that the River Po both 'gives and takes' and that when the waters fall again, all will be revealed.

Despite opposition from his superiors who want him back in Parma, Soneri remains convinced that the answers lie with the river and he is determined to follow his instincts and continue investigating until he has got to the bottom of the mystery and tracked down who is responsible.

River of Shadows is a compelling story, well translated into English by Joseph Farrell, and the novel is rich in atmosphere and full of local, background detail.

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(Picture by mdall olio0 from Pixabay)


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