I know I said that I'd probably never read another Massimo Carlotto book after the downer that was Death's Dark Abyss but something about Poisonville just pulled me in (and I liked Death's Dark Abyss but, well, read my review). Anyway, this second visit to Carlotto's corrupt, messed-up world was less violent and sexually disturbing than the first, and offered up a fun mystery, too.
Set in an economically-struggling northern town beset by corruption and ruled by a closed-in class of aristocrats, a young lawyer from a disgraced family is found dead along with evidence that she's been having a degrading sexual affair. Francesco is her fiance and the scion of a respected legal family; he is first a suspect then the self-appointed lead investigator into her sordid death. Along the way he must revisit the scandal that ruined her family, expose various secrets and confront some very uncomfortable truths about the things and people he holds dear.
I figured out who the killer was pretty quickly, I will admit, thanks more to my soap-opera training than to any deductive skills. Like a good crime novel, Carlotto and Videtta include a colorful cast of extras, like Giovanna's plucky best friend, her crazy ex and his controlling mother to liven up the proceedings. Carlotto and Videtta try hard to make the book about something bigger than sex and scandal by tying Giovanna's death to local pollution, corruption and sex-trafficking activity that has absorbed nearly all of the city's elite. But at its heart, Poisonville is good trashy fun that crime readers of all stripes will enjoy, right to the very bitter end.