On a freezing November night Commissioner Alec Blume is called to the scene of a shooting. The victim is Sofia Fontana, the sole witness to a previous killing. Blume’s enquiries lead from a professor with a passion for the art of memory to an ex-terrorist whose injuries have left her mind innocently blank; from present-day Rome’s criminal underclass, to a murderous bombing in central. Italy several decades ago.
When magistrate Matteo Arconti’s namesake, an insurance man from Milan, is found dead outside the court buildings in Piazza Clodio, it’s a coded warning to the authorities – a clear message of defiance and intimidation. Commissioner Alec Blume, all too familiar with Rome’s criminal underclass, knows little of the Calabrian mafia currently under investigation by the magistrate.
Commissario Alec Blume, on health leave, has retreated from Rome to central Italy. At the Villa Romanelli, he enrols in a natural remedies course conducted by a young woman named Silvana. But far from recuperating, a feverish Blume becomes isolated and sluggish with sickness. Increasingly ill at ease in the stifling environment, the dark history of the crumbling villa and its once-magnificent gardens draw him in.