My interest in Italian crime began when I moved to Milan in 2006. By chance I came across the chilling story of the Monster of Florence: between 1968 and 1985, 16 murders, nearly all of them courting couples, took place near the Tuscan town. In each murder, the same gun and modus operandi was used.
Four local men were arrested, charged, and convicted of the crime at different times, but they were all released when subsequent murders using the same weapon and methods cast doubt upon their guilt. To date, this intriguing case with its links to secret satanic sects and powerful figures has never been solved. How was it possible, I asked myself, for murderers with so much blood on their hands to get away scot-free?
In an attempt to answer this, I set about trying to better understand the country I now called home. Among the things I came to learn was that Italy has a rich history of criminal conspiracy. Presented with cover-ups just too many times, Italians are always quick to doubt the official version of events.
I also discovered that the wheels of Italian justice turn painfully slow or, if you have the right connections, sometimes not at all. This led me to wonder what it must be like to work as a determined police detective in such a system. How do you get results? How do you remain honest when faced with widespread corruption? I needed a protagonist who somehow encapsulated the dilemmas of the country itself and it was from this that Detective Leone Scamarcio was born.
Scamarcio’s first case The Few is in some ways inspired by The Monster of Florence case. Scamarcio comes to learn that he is dealing with the sickest of cover-ups and that the very people behind it have the power to quash his investigation. He must navigate the darkest currents of Italian society, only to find that the price of truth may be higher than he can pay. His second case, THE AMERICAN, has its roots in Italy’s bloody Years of Lead in which a series of bombing campaigns, supposedly by extremists on both left and right, terrorized the country. I wanted Scamarcio to explore this troubled period because so much of what happened back then can help explain the problems facing Italy now. In Scamarcio’s third investigation, The Hit, he is forced to confront the ghosts of his past and make a decision about whether he can finally cut all ties with his father’s old associates. His dilemma is Italy’s dilemma: how to eradicate a mafia that has its tentacles in every aspect of Italian life? You can cut the head off the hydra but will another soon grow back? Scamarcio must take a calculated risk if he’s to free himself from the past and build a life for himself that works.