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by Christobel Kent
Penguin, August 2006
384 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0141019751

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Is it just me or are there more and more crime and detective novels appearing set in Italy? Donna Leon, Magdalen Nabb, Michael Dibdin, Timothy Williams, not to mention the Italian writers like Andrea Camilleri or Niccolò Ammaniti, now regularly appear on our shelves no doubt delighting the tourist in us all with the flavours and sights from Sicily to Rome, Venice and Florence. Whereas the other writers are producing detective fiction, in this case Christobel Kent has authored a gripping thriller set in beautiful Florence.

The book opens with the murder of a seven-year-old English girl at a suburban swimming pool in Florence. Then Kent moves us to a point 15 years later, and weaves together three sets of characters through the streets and alleys of Florence.

The first is Celia Donnelly, an English tour guide, resident in the city, hired to show an English couple around the city and the art galleries. Gradually it becomes apparent that all is not as it should be with this husband and wife relationship, and neither is it with the other couple in the story, a policeman involved in the case of the murdered English girl, and his wife who works in one of Florence’s fashionable women’s dress shops.

Celia, too, has relationship issues, both with her family back in England and her ex-boyfriend in Florence. Occasionally too much time is spent on exploring these aspects of the characters’ lives and one wishes the narrative would speed up – in part because of the suspense that the author has successfully created. Eventually, however, the separate elements come together in a resolution to the original – and a subsequent – murder.

For me, there some aspects of the happy ending that were less than satisfactory, but overall this is an excellent read and a fine addition to the Italian crime genre, and not a bad introduction to Florence.

Reviewed by Neil Wynn, November 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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