Rain falls relentlessly on the Po valley in northern Italy, and the river is swollen to its limits. A huge barge leaves its moorings, steering an erratic course downstream and away into the foggy night. When finally it runs aground hours later, the bargeman is nowhere to be found. That same evening, Commissario Soneri is summoned to investigate the apparent suicide of a man in nearby Parma. He and the bargeman were brothers, and when the detective discovers that they served together in the fascist militia fifty years earlier, the incidents seem likely to be linked. Resentments dating from the savage civil strife between Fascists and Partisans in the closing years of the war still weigh heavily, and as the flood waters begin to ebb, the river yields up its secrets: tales of past brutality, bitter rivalry and revenge. Valerio Varesi is a penetrating analyst of his country's dark and undigested history.
Valerio Varesi has been the Parma correspondent for La Stampa and La Repubblica. River of Shadows was the first of a series of thrillers featuring Commissario Soneri, now the central figure of one of Italy's most popular television dramas. It was followed in English translation by The Dark Valley, Gold Frankincense and Dust and A Woman Much Missed. Joseph Farrell is Emeritus Professor at the University of Strathclyde. His books include a cultural history of Sicily and biographies of Dario Fo and Leonardo Sciascia. He is also a renowned translator from the Italian, whose translations include works by Leonardo Sciascia, Vincenzo Consolo, Dario Fo and Valerio Varesi. He lives in Glasgow.