Hitherto, Carrisi’s books have been very long, and somewhere in the middle the supernatural has usually made an appearance, though sometimes it’s a conference of priests with forbidden knowledge. The plots usually hinge on violence towards women (here a kidnapped young girl), and the décor is usually dark night. This time it’s fog in a mountain village and there’s no priest, but there is an evangelical church whose congregation calls itself the brotherhood. The pattern is familiar. The story opens on a psychiatrist who has been called to the police station in the middle of the night, where a detective is being held after a traffic accident. Flores and the detective have a kind of retrospective on the crime ‘which changed everything’ (one of the refrains in the course of the book).
There are lots of shifts of narrator and/or character, building to an also-familiar multi-twist ending. There are also subheadings throughout to indicate shifts in time as well as place. This jumping about, is not an unusual structure, and contains refrains, such as—the first one–sixty-two days after the disappearance. Of course, it is often used to challenge readers to keep track of what’s gone on, or is going on. Sometimes there are one-word chimes, ‘trophy’, for example.
The main investigator of the child’s disappearance is a cynical detective who runs his cases dressed in high-end suits and expensive shoes. His journalistic connexion is a ‘blonde, elegant, aggressively beautiful’ stereotype in ‘vertiginously high heels’ (in winter, in the slush) who will eventually parlay her reporting into a television programme. They are two of a kind, alert to the media and how to manipulate them. Vogel, the detective, is a sham, who manipulates the investigation, which begins to point at a literature teacher in the local upper school. Loris Martini, the teacher, insists that he has had nothing to do with the crime, but Vogel wants the publicity, and so does the journalist, Stella Honer. So, also does Levi, a stereotypical lawyer who swoops in to take over the defence. Names can be important, and so can their absences: ‘Vogel’ (German for ‘bird’—he doesn’t have a first name, unless you count ‘special agent’), ‘Stella’ (‘Star’), ‘Martini’, which is just a common Italian surname, suitable for an ordinary joe. The psychiatrist is Auguste Flores (‘flower’), whose first name we hear only once. Where this book is a departure for Carrisi is towards psychological suspense, so the psychiatrist, with whom the book begins, has been called back into the hospital to listen to Vogel, who, sixty-two days after the disappearance, has been in a car crash and is now suffering some kind of shock; he says (here’s the supernatural), ‘There’s something evil here… Something evil has insinuated itself into your lives’.
That’s the beginning, in which we hear a lot from the shrink. It’s also the ending, more or less. Elsewhere, we hear a lot from Martini. Howard Curtis’s translation is good, I think better than some of his earlier books, and certainly good enough not to call attention to itself. Nevertheless, this is a novel shaped by the conventions of a currently popular subgenre, with which it doesn’t do very much. The most instrumental example has to do with Vogel, and that’s all I can say about it without a spoiler–which is a compliment of sorts.