This is the second in an Italian set crime series featuring Commissario Soneri. The first book, River of Shadows, was set in the Po Valley in the midst of floods and I found it very enjoyable, even though it reinforced my impression from recent reading of Italian crime stories that it rains a great deal in Italy!
This story has a different and somewhat drier setting; the village in the Appenines where Soneri spent his boyhood and after an absence of many years has decided to spend his holiday, collecting mushrooms in the mountains as he did with his father when a boy.
He finds the village, and his old friends, much changed. A prominent member of the family who own the meat processing factory that supports the village has hanged himself and his son is missing. Rumours are rife that the business is in dire trouble and the villagers, loyal for many years, are finding that their savings, as well, are in grave danger.
Sonero does not want to get mixed up in all this, but when he finds a body he is unable to distance himself. The local police are not familiar with the area and he is pressed into service.
This story, as in the previous book and many other books of Italian crime fiction, has its roots in WW2. It is not as exciting as River of Shadows and is fairly slow to take off, but it did grip me and though the ending was not a great surprise it was satisfactory.
I like Commissario Soneri, though he is given a lot to introspection, and his girl friend Angela who makes a regrettably brief appearance in this book. There is also rather a nice dog. The other characters feel a bit sketchy, although the pivotal though rarely appearing Woodsman is impressive.
I did not find this as compelling as the previous book in the series, but it is a good read. I would give it three and a half stars, and would be happy to read further books in the series.
Originally written in Italian by Valerio Varesi, The Dark Valley has been translated into English by Joseph Farrell. Published by MacLehose Press, an imprint of Quercus, it is currently available in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review and to Penny for reviewing it.
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