The City of the Living

Europa. Oct. 2023. 432p. tr. from Italian by Ann Goldstein. ISBN 9781609458317. $28. THRILLER
Lagioia (Ferocity) creates a contemporary Italian In Cold Blood, using extensive research and interviews to recreate a real-life notorious Roman murder and its aftermath. In March 2016, after days of bingeing cocaine and vodka, Manuel Foffo and Marco Prato lured Luca Varani, a 23-year-old sex worker, into Foffo’s apartment where they tortured and killed him in a Leopold-and-Loeb-style unmotivated murder of curiosity. In his fictionalization, Lagioia recounts the reporting of the case, the reactions of people who knew the victim and the killers, the impact on survivors, and subsequent trials, as well as gruesomely recreating the murder. The author enters the story as a character, feeling drawn to researching the case by his own experience of nearly murdering someone in adolescence. He aims to move beyond easy classifications and examine the humanity of all involved.
VERDICT Lagioia’s literary thriller provides a more complicated picture of crime and punishment than many crime novels, and the vivid depictions of Rome leap from the page, but readers will require a firm resolve to wade through the detailed horrors of Varani’s murder.
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