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The Last Enemy: A Commissario Cenni Investigation    by Grace Brophy order for
Last Enemy
by Grace Brophy
Order:  USA  Can
Soho, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

In this terrific Italian police procedural, Commissario Alessandro Cenni of the Polizi di Stato has been assigned to the prime minister's special task force to combat international terrorism and politically sensitive domestic crimes. Therefore, given his responsibilities, he is a bit surprised when he is dispatched from Perugia to Assisi for the purposes of investigating an apparently routine murder. After all, there are plenty of other homicide investigators in the region, so Cenni doesn't quite understand the need for his involvement in the case.

The dead woman, however, was forty-five year old Rita Minelli, the American niece of the socially well-connected Count Umberto Casati, and high-level political pressures argue in favor of an expeditious and discreet criminal investigation; Cenni, of course, because of his considerable expertise is the perfect candidate for the assignment.

When Cenni arrives in Assisi, he is disturbed to find that Murphy's Law has been actively involved at the crime scene - the Casati family vault in the local cemetery. Everything that could have gone wrong seems to have gone wrong, and Cenni finds very little physical evidence of any value at the cemetery. Moreover, delays, oversights, and mistakes during the post-mortem examination of the dead woman's body serve to exacerbate an increasingly complicated homicide investigation. The cause of the woman's death, the evidence of her apparent sexual assault, and the reasons for the dead woman's presence in the cemetery are only a few of the problems Cenni must confront. Then, as if Cenni didn't have enough obstacles, when he begins by interviewing the Casati family, he immediately realizes that 'everyone's hiding something.' Passions, secrets, jealousies, and deceptions are epidemic - and they are infecting quite a few people. However, as a frustrated Cenni will learn, after the deaths of others with important connections to the case, the shocking truth about what happened to Rita Minelli - and the others - perhaps should have been obvious from the very beginning; after all, it was right in front of his eyes: 'The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death' (I Corinthians 15:26).

Carefully plotted and overflowing with intriguing characterizations, The Last Enemy is a first-rate police procedural by a debut novelist; the settings are seductive, the dialogue is compelling, and the mystery is fantastic. Don't miss it!

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