In his fourth (and hopefully not final) seasonal outing (after Everyone in Their Place: The Summer of Commissario Ricciardi), the Neapolitan inspector investigates the death of a scugnizzo, or street urchin, whose body was found sitting in the cold rain at the foot of a staircase, guarded only by a small dog. The corpse shows no signs of violence, and Ricciardi, who has the ability to see a murder victim’s final moments, is stumped. “He instinctively looked around and saw no trace of ghostly images: the child’s death couldn’t have been a violent one; perhaps he’d frozen to death, or starved, or succumbed to some disease.” Yet Ricciardi senses something is off and decides to pursue the case despite objections from church officials (a local parish priest had been caring for the boy) and his own sycophantic boss, who wants to make a good impression for the impending state visit of Benito Mussolini. Meanwhile, the two women in Ricciardi’s life pursue him in very different ways.
Verdict: Shugaar’s elegant translation captures the chilly melancholy of a city, a people, and a country gripped by a bleak autumn, economic depression, and political repression. The green-eyed Ricciardi is a fascinating and complicated sleuth, haunted by his “gift,” but this time his quest for justice leads to a devastating, heartbreaking conclusion. A superb novel for fans of Italian noir.
—Wilda Williams, Library Journal