A gripping thriller full of twists you won’t see coming… The next serial killer read from the author of Missing and Hunted. Perfect for the fans of Angela Marsons and Jeffrey Deaver.
It’s been two years since mass murderer, Giacomo Riondino, disappeared after killing Greta Alfieri…Dr Claps, devastated and guilt-ridden by Greta’s death has been on a man-hunt for Riondino ever since. Meanwhile, an American girl disappears on the 382nd step of the Cerro trail in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
No one saw her disappear. Who took her? And how?
When the US authorities contact Claps, he is certain that it must be Riordino. But, unlike Riondino’s other victims, the girl has disappeared into thin air…
Will Claps solve the puzzle, or will he lose his mind in the process, blinded by his own obsession?
Sound like your kind of book? Read a few exacts from the book right here 🙂
The Alitalia Boeing 747 had begun its final descent to Hartsfield International in Atlanta a few minutes earlier.
The passenger looked out from the window at the sea of white clouds below obscuring the ground. He had left Milan Malpensa over ten hours earlier after having exchanged a final email with the United States the day before. During the long intercontinental flight he hadn’t slept for a single minute, nor eaten or drunk anything, or looked at a book or a magazine. He had sat motionless, locked inside his thoughts and waiting for the journey to end. When, with a little turbulence, the Boeing began to pass through the clouds and for about fifteen seconds everything disappeared into a thick fog, he began to feel anxious. Or rather, he began to feel the vague fear that came over him with every take off and every landing. He could see the ground beneath him now. Green fields and trees broken up by roads and tracts of houses that became increasingly clear as the plane lost altitude. The sun and the blue sky above the clouds had vanished, replaced by rain, the real intensity of which he couldn’t assess.
The vibration of the undercarriage being lowered increased his anxiety.
The plane banked gently one last time to align itself with the runway, and the passenger closed his eyes and waited for the aircraft to make contact with the ground.
He finally reopened them and breathed a sigh of relief only when the reverse thrust of the jets was already slowing the Boeing’s progress along the tarmac.
As the plane taxied slowly along before eventually coming to a halt, he adjusted his watch to local time. 15:26: two minutes before the scheduled landing time…
Not long now and he would know if the journey had actually been worth making.
“He’d always been one step ahead of us. Always, right up until that last damn day.”
After several days of intense cold, it was unusually mild in Milan that evening. Commissioner Sensi and dottoressa Manara, the director of the LABANOF – the Forensic Anthropology and Dentistry Laboratory – sat in a crowded bar in the navigli area, a glass of Lagavulin on the table in front of each of them.
It had been two years and two months since Giacomo Riondino had disappeared, leaving behind him the charred corpses of his accomplice and of Greta Alfieri, and this was the first time since then that Sensi had talked to anyone about the whole atrocious story.
Two years during which Sensi had never forgiven himself for letting the man escape when he thought he’d him in his grip, for not having saved Greta, and above all for not managing, during all that intense manhunt, to understand. To see what was right in front of his face and would have allowed him to stop Riondino before he’d left that trail of blood behind him.
The commissioner took a deep breath. “He always knew that sooner or later we’d catch up with him, but he had a plan, and every time we took a step forward, he’d already taken one himself.” Sensi hesitated a moment before concluding bitterly, “We’ve only got ourselves to blame. We always gave him enough time to make that step.”
“You did nearly catch him, though,” said Manara.
“Yeah…” said Sensi, lowering his eyes. “But only after he had killed eight more people in the space of a few days.” He took another sip of his whiskey before continuing. “We discovered that he had an accomplice who had been helping him – first to escape from the institution he was transferred to from the high security psychiatric hospital, then to find a safe hiding place in the city. An accomplice we’d had right in front of us from the start but hadn’t managed to pick up in time. Anyway, the long and short of it is that we discovered he was hiding Riondino and that he was holding Greta Alfieri hostage there.”
“Were you and Greta close?” asked Manara.
“Nowhere near as close as she and Claps were…” replied Sensi slowly, emphasising each word. “There’d been a very deep bond between them since the time he’d saved her life.” He took another small sip. “Claps was with me that night when we all went over there. But Riondino had already gone. It was probably only a matter of minutes, but we missed him. The house was empty and the accomplice’s car had disappeared. It was sighted in Como less than an hour later, with Riondino at the wheel and Greta lying on the back seat as though she were sleeping.”
“She was already dead…” remarked Cristina Manara sadly. “When I did the autopsy I didn’t find any trace of smoke in her lungs.”
Sensi just nodded and turned his eyes away before continuing. “The sighting wasn’t coincidental: Riondino wanted to be recognised. He planned it all out. He stopped at a petrol station and only set off again when he was certain that the manager had recognised him and seen Greta apparently sleeping on the back seat. With cars already on his tail, he took a back road that went through the hills to Switzerland. A narrow road, full of bends, and the tarmac was slippery from the rain. It was pouring down that night.” Sensi stopped for a moment to suppress the wave of emotion the memories were evidently causing. “He was carrying the corpse of the accomplice he had killed only a few hours earlier in the boot. He fastened him into the driving seat and pushed the car off a cliff, making it look like they’d gone off the road, and then he set fire to the car. After that, all he had to do was walk across the border.” Another brief pause, another deep breath. “When we arrived, we found the two carbonised bodies, and we had no reason to think that the corpse at the wheel wasn’t Riondino… We only found out thirty-six hours later, thanks to you, when you did the autopsies. By which time it was too late.” Sensi’s voice seemed no longer able to hold back his anger. “Always one step ahead of us…”
Claps had spent the last three hours in his hotel room studying the file on Sheila Ross’s disappearance.
Her family had distant Italian origins: the founder of the clan, who had landed in New York with little money but plenty of dreams in October 1892, exactly four hundred years after Columbus, had been Giuseppe Rossi. Giuseppe hadn’t been afraid of hard work, and wasn’t lacking in strength or business nous, so as soon as he’d started making money, he set up a small business, and forty years later his first grandson, Joseph Ross, was one of the biggest taxpayers in Atlanta. Sheila was now the fifth generation and had everything she needed – as well as much more besides – for a happy life. But then she had encountered a man… Could it have been Riondino?
Claps sighed. There was nothing that proved for certain that the man Sheila Ross had spoken to in Malecon was the one that had abducted her, much less that it had been Riondino…
But he didn’t want to overlook anything.
That Riondino was abroad was obvious, and from the moment he had disappeared, Claps had been certain that there would be other victims.
But there was another thing of which he had been certain: sooner or later he would find him, wherever he was.
He would have no peace until he had succeeded. He unscrewed the safety cap of a plastic tub and took out a pill which he swallowed. Maybe he wouldn’t even have peace after he found him.
Claps slowly closed his eyes. Greta Alfieri was dead because of him. He had used her – used her to find in himself the strength to follow Riondino when he escaped, right at the time when he, the great criminologist, the profiler, had wanted nothing more than to leave that kind of manhunt behind him. Greta too, had been keeping her distance from that type of horror story for a long time, but he had manoeuvred her back into the game.
And in the game, she had met her death.
What atrocious irony destiny had reserved for them… Many years before, in the Morphy case, he had saved her life, only to then cause her to lose it at Riondino’s hand.
Claps knew he would never find peace, but he wasn’t going to let Riondino find it either: he would follow him all the way to hell, if that was what it took.
All the way to hell. And there he would let him burn. That was all he cared about.
He opened his eyes again: in addition to a profile of Sheila Ross and her friend’s testimony, the file contained the official information the Ecuadorian police had given to the media as well as what little Munro had managed to find out from his confidential sources. At first, the local cops had not taken the disappearance of the girl too seriously, considering it the caprice of some impulsive spoilt American rich kid, and only later, under pressure from the US government, the web and the local press, had the hypothesis of a kidnapping for ransom been advanced. But the demand for ransom had never come… The investigation had widened its scope, but they had found absolutely nothing. As far as the Italian was concerned, they didn’t seem to be trying too hard to identify him among the residents of Guayaquil. The latest reports made it clear how the police efforts had progressively tailed off along with the decline in media interest in Sheila Ross.
Claps went to the window and opened the heavy curtains. In the darkness of the evening a dense, thin rain continued to fall on the lights of Atlanta.
If the clues in the dossier led him to think that the man who had taken Sheila Ross was the Italian, none of them suggested that he might be Riondino. But there was also nothing which excluded the idea.
Yes, he would go to Guayaquil.
The CD that Munro had given to him contained more photos of Sheila Ross in addition to the one he had already seen at the airport. He had looked at them for a long time, but without feeling any empathy.
Once, that would not have been the case: he would have immediately felt a kind of deep bond with the victim of a crime he was called in to handle. He would have been overcome by a kind of dizziness… would have imagined her way of moving, of talking, of smiling. He would have smelled her scent… And he would have worked as hard to get justice for her as if she had been he himself. Now, though, whether she was alive or dead, he was as indifferent to Sheila Ross as he would be to anybody else.
There was a slim chance that her disappearance might lead him to Riondino, though… And if not for her, it was for himself that Claps needed justice: after all, in his own way, wasn’t he, like Greta Alfieri, one of Riondino’s victims?
He was alive, yes, but wasn’t it as though Riondino had killed him along with Greta?
Justice? Or Revenge?
The book is out to buy now and at a great price of £2.48 on kindle
Monty Marsden, a Tuscan by birth, grew up in Milan, where he studied medicine and still works. He lives in the province of Bergamo, with his wife and four children.