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Jones, Tobias - 'Death of a Showgirl'
Paperback: 240 pages (Apr. 2013) Publisher: Faber and Faber ISBN: 0571269699

This was what people aspired to: the laughter, the glamour of snowy peaks, feet splashing in a transparent sea, a beautiful wife with perfect teeth and voluptuous curves. On the far wall, in large letters, it said Sogni Group.

It's late evening by the time private investigator Castagnetti finds the Rome villa of his latest client. Lawyer Fausto Biondi greets Castagnetti rudely, then tells him that his eighteen-year-old daughter is missing; she went shopping yesterday but has not come home. The police say they can't do anything at this stage as she is an adult. Castagnetti talks to the girl's mother, frail, drunk and no help. But their elder daughter gives him a page from a gossip magazine with a photo of the missing girl, her sister Simona, smiling outside a nightclub. She believes something is wrong. Her sister is a good girl, yes she would like her independence but she looks after their difficult parents, smooths the atmosphere between them and there's no way she would go off and leave them. Castagnetti sets out to find the nightclub in the magazine photo. There, a barman tells him that someone else has been asking after the girl in the photo and he passes over a scrap of paper with the man's address and phone number on it. The address is a hotel somewhere over in Ostia. Castagnetti drives on through the night and finds the hotel, a run-down place with a foyer decorated with photos of past celebrities. The manager is also seedy and run-down. He tells Castagnetti that the girl was in the hotel yesterday with one of the guests, an older guy with a grey ponytail. His name's the one on the barman's piece of paper Mori. But they've moved on already. At some point the manager reminisces about the golden days of the hotel, twenty years or so ago, when the owner used to throw all these fancy parties, plenty of drink, plenty of girls, good times had by all. "Who is the owner?" asks Castagnetti. " Mario Di Angelo," replies the manager. The senator? Yes sure the senator, the owner of TV Sogni.

As well as being author of the "Castagnetti" crime series featuring the limping, loner, private investigator, Tobias Jones also wrote THE DARK HEART OF ITALY a study of corruption in Italy which later formed the basis for a TV documentary. DEATH OF A SHOWGIRL is his third Castagnetti book and it is perhaps no surprise that it too takes us into a world of corruption; one centred on media gossip, moguls, politics, and "bunga-bunga" parties. A young girl goes missing and Castagnetti's search opens up not only the sleaze of present day celebrity but its past echoes in the disappearance of another young woman some twenty years before. Eventually the buried past is brought to the surface and its secrets are also laid bare.

This is not an edge-of-your-seat crime story; it's tone is almost detached as Castagnetti searches for the young girl. In fact I was unsure if I could become absorbed into it, but absorbed I was. Jones unwraps the story of Castagnetti driving through the night into the days that follow, methodically tracing one lead to another, with quiet style. I thoroughly recommend it as a morning-after antidote for a surfeit of adrenalin-fuelled thrillers. Altogether DEATH OF A SHOWGIRL is a restrained exercise in investigation that opens up the "dark heart" of corruption within "La Dolce Vita" with surgical precision.

Lynn Harvey, England
May 2013

Lynn blogs at
Little Grey Doll.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 12/05/2013 09:47