Commissario Soneri - Italy's Maigret - returns in his fourth investigation, the most painfully personal yet.
A few days before Christmas, with Parma gripped by frost and fog, Ghitta Tagliavini, the elderly owner of a guesthouse in the old town centre, is found murdered in her apartment.
The case is assigned to Commissario Soneri, but the investigation holds a painful, personal element that sends waves of nostalgia sweeping through him. Tagliavini's guesthouse is where Soneri met his late wife Ada, and where the young couple spent unforgettable hours in each other's company.
But the present can embitter even the sweetest memories. An old photograph of Ada with another man sends Soneri into a spiral of despondency, ever more so when he realises her death may be linked to Tagliavina's lucrative sideline as a backstreet abortionist and faith healer.
Though Soneri would like nothing more than to be allowed to drop the case, he doggedly persists, uncovering at last, along with the truth behind Tagliavini's death, rife corruption at Parma's rotten heart and a raft of ghosts from Italy's divisive past.
Sinisterly atmospheric, cunningly plotted . . . Shot through with lightning flashes of sardonic humour. - Glasgow Herald.
A master storyteller. - Independent.
Varesi's plotting is sound and his pacing good. Where he raises his game from the common crime ruck, however, is in his almost painterly evocation of a wretchedly dark atmosphere and character. He could be the long-lost heir to Caravaggio. - Glasgow Herald.
Excellent . . . Compellingly reveals an authentic darkness at the heart of modern Italy. - Spectator.
Valerio Varesi has been the Parma correspondent for La Stampa and La Repubblica. River of Shadows was the first of a series of thrillers featuring Commissario Soneri, now the central figure of one of Italy's most popular television dramas. It was followed in English translation by The Dark Valley, Gold Frankincense and Dust and A Woman Much Missed.