Books: Young Beasts at Play

Set in Northern Italy, Young Beasts at Play by Davide Longo, is a gradual untangling of a convoluted mystery of dead bodies and living but silent witnesses from Italy’s Fascist past.

Young Beasts at Play by David Longo

Commissario Arcadipane is assigned a case of 12 bodies discovered in the countryside near Torino. The next day a taskforce that specialises in working with mass graves from World War 2 moves into the case, but there is compelling evidence showing that at least one of the corpses was killed more recently. Arcadipane calls in a retired colleague and a young, troubled but brilliant officer and together they gradually unravel the mystery. Combining forensic science and sound local knowledge, the group discovers the identity of one of corpses and follows the trail to Spain where the whole case is resolved. This story really does have a well created ending.

This was an excellent read, thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable. The North Italian setting gave an exotic feel without the book turning itself into a poetic jaunt through Tuscan lavender fields. A rich and textured setting can help a book, but it can also overwhelm a plot and the characters; in this book the setting it was kept subdued. The characters were developed with such reality, flawed but principled and motivated, especially Arcadipane with his troubled home life and the historical relationship of his retired colleague with the facts and victims of the case. The plot began by resembling a giant mass of tangled string and by the end, it was untangled and everything was rolled away neatly. Bravo.

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