Francesco Visentin, lawyer and scion of one of northeast Italy’s most powerful families, is broken by the news that his fiancée has been murdered days before their wedding. As the investigation begins and Francesco is cleared of the crime, it becomes clear that the man who killed Giovanna was also her lover. But who was he? In conducting his own investigation, Francesco must dodge a scandal-happy local media, a lifelong rival who also loved Giovanna, and the intricate politics of a provincial high society in a globalized age. All this in Carlotto and Videtta’s unromantic and modern Veneto region, a place you won’t recognize from Under the Tuscan Sun. Still, it’s got a Mediterranean brio all its own.”
The powerful don’t generally get off easy in crime fiction. Its world isn’t necessarily any more just than ours, but at least there the misdeeds of the elite are traceable, investigated and almost always associated with crimes—like murder—on which it is more or less impossible to equivocate. There’s a satisfaction in this clarity, but in the best noir, moral ambiguity somehow always finds a toehold. Certainly, this seems to be where Carlotto and Videtta are aiming Poisonville. The story is partly about how ruthlessly old elites hang on in a new world, and that’s interesting stuff, perfectly suited to the genre. Unfortunately, there are three major twists in this novel, and if you don’t guess at least two of them several dozen pages beforehand, you’re probably up past your bedtime.
By Pete Coco