A tour of the darker side of sunny Italy

May 13, 2007|By Sarah Weinman | Sarah Weinman,Special to The Sun

Suffer the Little Children

By Donna Leon

The Last Enemy

By Grace Brophy

Soho Press / 342 pages / $23

Assisi is the setting of Grace Brophy's evocative debut, which introduces Commissario Alessandro Cenni to the sleuthing scene - and to the malevolent, secret-laden Casati family, wrapped so tightly within one another that any expectation the reader might have of motive or guilt seems to change with every page turn. Cenni meets the Casatis as a result of the murder of American expat Rita Minelli, her body splayed on the floor of the family cemetery vault almost in vague parody of a sexual assault. Who took the time to stage the crime, and why was Rita so detested by her extended family? Brophy teases out each layer of clues with a deft hand that betrays few of the usual first-novel clunkers, helped greatly by strong knowledge of the locale she's chosen. Cenni is well set up to return, and traditional mystery readers should welcome his continued investigations.

Sarah Weinman reviews crime fiction every month for The Sun. Visit her at www.sarahweinman.com

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