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Amidst the mountains of Val d’Aosta
…in pursuit of the culprit
The new adventure of Commander Colleoni in Franco Faggiani’s latest novel.
Splendid landscapes, a range of human types, and clues that dissolve like “soap bubbles”
by Anna M. Conserva
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There comes a time in a man’s life when he has to stop. And that is exactly what Bartolomeo Colleoni, after roaming the world having fascinating adventures, does. He stops, “plunging”, in the real sense of the word, as we discover from his first appearance in Le tracce sotto la neve, into a land of mountains, in his well-cut suit, English shoes and with his undiminished charm, to rediscover the healthy pleasure of solitude, to admire the beauty of untouched places and to savor the simplicity of a good glass of wine and a book.

Choosing a quiet place to live and a job that is less demanding than being Commander of the Trento Forestry Corps, however, will turn out to be quite different from the idea of an eventful life in the country.

After the events that involved and disturbed him in Franco Faggiani’s first novel, while waiting for the completion of work on his chalet and taking advantage of a quiet period, Commander Colleoni in Le bolle di sapone (Piazzola sul Brenta, Idea Montagna - Editoria e Alpinismo, 2014, 238 pp., euro 16.50) moves to Val d’Aosta to check some ibex or perhaps “to get some fresh air into his head? Does distance cancel certain little memories or does it actually intensify them?”

In this second novel some of the characters from the first book return. The team of esteemed assistants, a taxi-driver that drives any vehicle as long as it is souped-up and, in the margin, the cheerful and unpredictable daughter Caterina, the fascinating Norwegian ex-wife Johanna and the mysterious Matilde, the widow of his predecessor Vanoi, the link between the end of the first book and the beginning of the second.

The story presents us with interesting new characters; first of all, a new female figure: a guide with an ambiguous name, soft curves and a mane of hair. And also the Gerards, father and son, a surly wine-grower, a couple of eccentric old stationers, dust-covered and touching, a Buddhist monk, a violent alcoholic scoundrel, an old guide struck dumb by an indelible pain.

Like the first novel, the second contains clues that are evanescent and almost imperceptible, like soap bubbles, but they are enough for the commander and his young helper Minetti to conclude their investigations into the illegal transport of goods and people and unknown lethal substances. They use shrewd skill, good contacts, outright good luck and methods that are breezy, and at times questionable.

Up hills and down dales, to refuges and clefts, the reader follows the Commander. With him he solves the mystery of the present in the valley and scales the mountains where from the snow and from the past there emerge sad stories and figures, pain and peace, in a crescendo of human feeling that adds force to the characters. “Over time, everything is dragged down, perhaps being changed, transformed, shattered. But every thing that does not belong to the glacier, sooner or later gets ejected”.

The style is fluid, the story full of surprises; with smiles and sadness, carried away by new adventures, readers have almost no time to catch their breath.

The tension is sustained but pleasant, softened by the descriptions of landscapes, the choice of delicious food and well-structured wine enjoyed amidst erudite quotations, which remind you that at least you’re safe, among old friends.

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