Questore Alessandro Cenni with the state police is assigned to investigate the murder of a former German diplomat who had been living in the village of Paradiso in Umbria. The body of Jarvinia Baudler was horrifically mutilated,
but the Germans seem more interested in obtaining World War II documents they believed Baudler
possessed than in catching her murderer. In fact, they want nothing more than for the crime to be wrapped up as quickly as possible. The victim herself was not well liked,
and the list of suspects who would benefit from her death is long. Cenni's investigation takes him back
to a time when Italy was occupied and allied with Germany, as well as into the many relationships Baudler had
with both women and men.
While the novel takes place mostly in Umbria, the reader is taken across Italy to Rome and Venice, getting a small taste of the people and culture as well as the country's politics. Although set in the present day, the novel touches on events that took place in Venice during the Second World War. While Italy was an ally to Germany during the war, there were those who resisted. There were also those who sought to bring down the Allied Forces, particularly England,
and what better way to strike than at the economy?
Despite pressure from the Germans and his superiors to make an arrest, Cenni is determined to get to the truth no matter the outcome. With help from his colleagues, his brother the bishop, and good investigative skills, Cenni just might find what he's looking for.
An overreaching story arch in the series involves the kidnapping of a woman Alex Cenni loved twenty years before who has never been seen again. Cenni believes he spots her while in Venice, and the main
plot line takes a slight detour as he attempts to track her down. This is a bit off-putting,
although it does serve to offer another side to Cenni and more fully develop his character.
A number of characters, many of them quite eccentric, each bear their own dark secrets. The murder victim herself has quite a colorful past, and not one anyone would envy. She was a master at manipulation and uncovering secrets, then using those secrets for personal gain. She made quite a few enemies over the years, including those in her inner circle.
Alex Cenni is cynical and a maverick who doesn't always follow the rules but just about always solves his cases, even if it means arresting someone of high profile and earning the ire of his superiors.
As he gets closer to learning who killed Baudler, Cenni begins to question the reasons he went into law enforcement and wonders if
the time has come to move on. Assisting him on the case is Elena Ottaviani, a
friend as well as a colleague. She is firm in her stance for equality between
men and women and does not take kindly to stereotypes. She's very capable in her
job and deserves a lot of credit for putting up with Cenni's occasional mood swings. She's
also not afraid to point out when she believes he is out of line.
Brophy's A Deadly Paradise, the second in a series featuring Alessandro Cenni,
brims with complex and interesting characters. This carefully crafted mystery had me guessing for a good portion of the novel. Now to track down the first book in the series and read it!