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Castagnetti (informally known as ‘Casta’) is a private detective who doesn’t do things by the book. He’s dogged and lonely, impatient with the world of appearances and deceit. So when a pompous notary commissions him to verify that a missing person is “presumed dead” in order to dispose of a dead woman’s estate to the other heirs, Casta smells a rat. Before long he’s reopening wounds from years ago and exposing family secrets to those who have tried to suppress them.
The relatives of Signora Salati just want their their inheritance, but Casta is going to make sure they get their just desserts as well. Because Casta isn’t the sort to content himself with “presumed dead”. He likes certainty, the kind of certainty that comes from seeing a skeleton. As the Salati case progresses, other corpses appear and Casta realises he’s at the centre of an old-fashioned Italian whodunit.
The Salti Case marks the appearance of a new and memorable detective: an orphan who has pulled himself up from the mean streets.
The Salati Case is a tense, gripping detective thriller introducing Castagnetti, a private detective with attitude. Jones has created a sleuth to match Aurelio Zen.
Scenes and characters are introduced without fuss, the dialogue is quick-fire, and there's the occasional evocative snippet of Italian thrown in. The Salati Case stays the right side of convoluted - and, having solved it, Castagnetti will presumably be back.
This is a worthy successor to Michael Dibdin. I am sure that Castagnetti, a sternly pensive slogger with a scruffy dress sense, will be back.
In many ways this is a routine crime novel, if an unusually agreeable one. The plot is full of twists and turns. There are vivid scenes. Casta is himself a good example of the dogged, often depressed, investigator, with a touch of the "soiled Galahad", the description Raymond Chandler applied to his Philip Marlowe ... But it is a bit more than that. Tobias Jones is the author of a non-fiction book about Parma - The Dark Heart of Italy - and his novel is also, like the best crime fiction, a study of a society and the changes it is experiencing.
Castagnetti is an engaging hero ... characterisation of the other characters is less detailed, but convincing and at times dryly amusing. Tobias Jones has a great sense of the peccadilloes of gossipy secretaries and vain middle-aged men. The depiction of the town is skillful and convincing; the wintry foggy miasma appears somewhat appropriate to the nature of the crime that Casta is investigating. THE SALATI CASE provides an entertaining and intelligent continental variant on the PI/dysfunctional family thriller and I look forward to reading further books in this series.
Jones uses a first-person narrative by Castagnetti, playing the classic crime-fiction game of dare in which the reader is challenged to work out what is going on before the detective does ... [The Salati Case] is taut and thoughtful ... the recent fortunes of the Berlusconi government suggest there will be many more contradictions between Italian sophistication and barbarism to explore, and it would be welcome if Castagnetti ... gets to investigate them.
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