When a stranger turns up in a small town in the Apennines a ripple of disquiet spreads amongst a small group of childhood friends. A day later and one of the friends, Zoboli, an academic who researches old manuscripts is dead, seemingly commits suicide by blowing his brains out with a pistol. Inspector Cataldo is assigned to investigate the suspicious death. A thoughtful, insightful detective he soon discovers that the stranger and the death are connected through a death 18 years previously, and that each of the small group are reticent to disclose what they know about that night. A short while later a second man is dead and a photograph stolen. All Cataldo needs to do is piece together the puzzle to discover the killer with a dark secret to hide.
Criminal Summer has the feel of an old-style detective story, reminding me somewhat of a Poirot-style story. Cataldo is an unflappable, cerebral detective, who’s strong on observation and fitting together the pieces of a puzzle. Technically a police procedural, Cataldo works predominately alone and there is very little in terms of back story or internal police politics. And although there is some tension underpinning the narrative, it is understated; the story told in a very sedate fashion, with little hint of violence or conflict. Consequently, the story kind of drifts along at a leisurely pace. That said, the characterisation, plot and sense of place all sufficient to make the book a pleasant experience. However, personally I would have preferred a bit more of a sense of urgency, more realism in the police investigation, and a lot more back story to make the book a truly satisfying read.