One wet November in Florence, the grieving widow of an eminent Jewish architect comes to visit Sandro Cellini, good husband, disgraced ex-policeman, and recently turned PI, to ask him to investigate her husband's suicide. Cellini takes her on out of sympathy, although this first case makes a downbeat start to his new career. There seems no doubt that Claudio Gentileschi, a Holocaust survivor and lifelong depressive found drowned on a bleak stretch of the River Arno, did take his own life, and initially Cellini imagines that his only duty is to support the widow through her time of mourning.
But as Cellini doggedly retraces the architect's last hours through the worst rains since the devastating floods of 1966, a young Englishwoman is found to have gone missing from the city's community of hard-drinking, high-living art students, and Sandro's search turns abruptly into something grimmer and more urgent than he could have imagined, as he uncovers a network of greed and corruption that is hidden under a veneer of tradition and refinement.
The Drowning River is a spot-on, atmospheric new mystery, the first in a series featuring Cellini.
As Sandro Cellini comes to grips with the tough realities of life as a private detective, touting for business among old contacts and following errant teenagers, an old case comes back to haunt him.
Once the subject of a routine background check back in Sandro's earliest days as a private investigator, the glamorous, charming, and ruthless Loni Meadows, the director of an American-Italian artistic retreat in a castle in the hills outside Florence, goes off the icy road in her car one night. The circumstances of her death seem less than accidental to Sandro. However inconvenient his suspicions might be, both to Sandro—whose marriage appears to be disintegrating in the aftermath of his wife's illness—and to Meadows's erstwhile employers, the detective presses on. As he attempts to uncover the truth of Meadows's violent and lonely death, Sandro finds himself drawn into the lives of the castle's highly strung community and the closed world they inhabit in the isolated Etruscan hills of the Maremma.
Reminiscent of a locked-room mystery in the style of Agatha Christie, A Murder in Tuscany leads the reader from one possible perpetrator to the next; to Sandro's chagrin, all of the artists in residence at the time of Loni's demise had more than enough reason to dislike her. But who in the group had the most compelling motive to want her dead?
Kent is a masterful investigator of character and mood, and her second mystery conveys the gloom of the Orfeo castle as well as the individual dark lives of its inhabitants in a chilling, memorable way.