The Cold Summer is a police procedural that takes place in Italy during the time when the mafia waged open war on the police and the courts, including bombing two judges. Author Gianrico Carofiglio writes from personal experience. He was an anti-mafia prosecutor and judge. This story opens as an internecine mafia conflict seems to be erupting in Bari. the capital of Puglia, right at the top of Italy’s heel. Even though it’s not near the epicenter of Mafia power, the Mafia still holds a lot of power in the city.

But this intrafamilial war took a nasty turn when the local leader’s son was kidnapped. Who would dare? When the young boy’s body is found, it suddenly becomes far too ugly.

The investigation was largely directed by Marshal Fenoglio of the Carabinieri, a reserved and formal man who seems incorruptible, though compassionate. He works hard and trusts the process of shoe leather, research, talking to people, and listening. It seems to work pretty well in leading him to the leader of the faction rebelling against the local boss. Although it seems so very certain he must have been the kidnapper, he denies it and Fenoglio thinks he just might be telling the truth. So while the rest of the Carabinieri think the case is settled, he and his partner keep on investigating.

I enjoyed The Cold Summer quite a bit. While some parts were a bit too legalistic, presenting the interrogation as questions and answers without the usual cajoling, narrowing in on the facts, looking for inconsistencies, so it felt like a finished transcript, not a real interrogation. Sometimes certain statues were explained in quoted text and analysis. He’s writing what he knows too literally. But this is more than counterbalanced by the wonderful conversations between Fenoglio and his colleague Pellecchia. They talk about the indistinct boundaries between right and wrong, really, they talk about life.

I have to mention the translator Howard Curtis. The translation is so smooth that it feels as though it were written in English. More than that, he is able to retain the poetry that I imagine the original most hold when Fenoglio sees the sky as a tragic blue. There are these active metaphors such as when Fenoglio has an early morning swim and leaves before the hot sun begins to eat his skin. Fenoglio is a reader and a thinker (or more accurately Carofiglio is) and it’s wonderful to listen to him thinking. I am looking forward to many more by this author.

I received a copy of The Cold Summer from the publisher through Edelweiss. It will be released September 4th.