The Puppeteer by Timothy WilliamsThe Puppeteer by Timothy Williams

The Puppeteer

byTimothy Williams

Paperback | November 11, 2014

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Northern Italy, 1982: Inspector Piero Trotti is enjoying his breakfast at a café when gunmen drive up and shoot the man sitting at the next table. Was Trotti their intended target? He isn’t sure. The case falls under the jurisdiction of the local Carabinieri, but Trotti decides to make his own inquiries.

The Puppeteer is the follow-up to CWA award-winner Timothy Williams’s dazzling crime fiction debut, Converging Parallels. This tautly written novel brings us to the depths of a corrupt, scheming Italian society in which bank officials, clergymen, masons, lawyers, and, of course, politicians are all suspect of resorting to criminal activity for personal gain. Only the police are presumed trustworthy, and even they are sorely divided by departmental rivalries and jealousies.
CWA award-winning author Timothy Williams has written six crime novels set in Italy featuring Commissario Piero Trotti, as two novels set in the French Caribbean, Another Sun and The Honest Folk of Guadeloupe. In 2011, The Observer placed him among the ten best modern European crime novelists. Born in London and educated at St. Andrews...
Title:The PuppeteerFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:304 pages, 7.49 × 5.01 × 0.77 inShipping dimensions:7.49 × 5.01 × 0.77 inPublished:November 11, 2014Publisher:Soho PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1616954620

ISBN - 13:9781616954628


Read from the Book

1: Guerino   “America?” The barman raised his eyebrows.         “She’s been there now for four months.”         There was a butter-dish and a couple of fresh bread rolls on the tray. Guerino placed them on the table. “On holiday?”         “She works for a pharmaceutical company.” Trotti added, “In New York.”         “Lucky girl.”         “After thirty years of marriage, I no longer think of my wife as a girl.”         The other man put his head back and laughed. “Wait till you’re my age, Commissario—then everybody under fifty is an adolescent.” He took the jug from the tray and poured out some coffee. He then added milk. “You’re staying up at the Villa Ondina?”         “I’ve just arrived.”         “We rarely see any of you now. The villa’s been empty since Agnese’s parents died. You should come and see us more often, Commissario. When you need a rest, you know that there’s nowhere better than the lake.” The older man looked out over the flat surface of the water. “And there’s nowhere more beautiful on Garda than Gardesana.”         There was no wind and the early morning mist still hovered a few meters above Lake Garda. The sun was showing over the shoulder of Monte Baldo.         Bar Centomiglia was a simple, unpretentious place. Not sophisticated—a far cry from the groomed elegance of Milan or Rome. Here there was just the smell of fresh coffee, a couple of rows of chairs that Guerino set out in the summer months, and a reassuring sameness to the décor—advertisements for vermouth and perhaps an out-of-date notice of films in the parish hall.         The orange trees were already coming into blossom.         “I’ve been very busy,” Trotti said.         “The robbery at the Banco San Matteo?”         Trotti turned. “You know about that?”         “We get the papers here, too.” He whistled under his breath. “I saw that you were in charge of enquiries. Banca San Matteo—and a man murdered.”         “Nobody was murdered,” Trotti said. “The manager was shot in the leg.”         Guerino was leaning against the side of the table and he held the empty tray under his arm. He put his head to one side as if he expected Trotti to say more.         Trotti looked at the lake in silence.         Guerino asked, “How’s Pioppi?”         “At university.”         “Not married, then?”         Trotti’s smile was tired. “I don’t think she’s interested in men.”         “Except for her father.” Guerino touched Trotti’s shoulder. “Even when she was a little girl, she adored you.”         “That was a long time ago.”         “A long time ago,” Guerino repeated in his mocking Roman accent and went back into the bar.         As Trotti ate his breakfast, he watched the sun climb into the sky.         From out on the lake came a mechanical beating sound. Later the mist began to lift and he saw the Giuseppe Verdi, the black smoke at her funnel almost vertical, working towards the shore.         There were a few cars parked here and there along the lakeside, a double row of orange trees and the well-kept flower-beds. At the jetty, the old captain—exactly as Trotti remembered him—was waiting for the steamboat to pull alongside.         A man came and sat on the same long bench as Trotti; he muttered “Buongiorno” and opened the paper, which he started to read. When Guerino appeared, the new arrival scarcely looked up as he ordered a cup of coffee.         He held the paper in front of his face and his forehead was wrinkled in concentration. He needed a shave; he did not look like a villager. He was wearing a suit that was slightly crumpled. No tie.         Guerino was whistling under his breath—an old fascist tune that he had probably learnt in Abyssinia—when he brought the coffee. He placed the cup on the table; the man grunted perfunctory thanks.         On the front page of the newspaper there was the picture of a battleship.         “War,” Guerino said. “They had Kenya, the English—they had most of Africa.” He tapped his chest. “I was in Kenya for four years, a prisoner of the British—and they had to throw it all away. And now they’re going to war over a few wretched islands in the middle of the ocean that nobody in his right mind would even want to visit.”         The man behind the newspaper glanced at Trotti. Their eyes met.         Trotti asked, “How’s Donatella, Guerino?”         (Sometimes, in the first years of marriage, to escape from the oppressive atmosphere of the Villa Ondina, Trotti used to take the bicycle and cycle into the village. It was in this bar that he had first met Donatella. In those days she was blonde, with short bobbed hair and an easy friendly smile. Later—and not yet twenty years old—she married a boy from the village.)         Again the smile on Guerino’s face and the Roman gesture. “Donatella? She’s a very beautiful grandmother.”         “Grandmother?” Trotti frowned before smiling. “Then you are a great-grandfather, Guerino?”         “Here.” He took his wallet from a trouser pocket and pulled out the photograph. “Over three kilos—and Valeria had him baptized Guerino, after me.” He placed the Polaroid photograph on the table and his work-worn finger touched the pink image of a newborn baby. “She says he looks just like me.”         The Giuseppe Verdi let out a mournful hoot as it moved towards the quay. An officer standing on the deck threw the rope to the Capitano, who caught it and looped it round a bollard. Both men spoke in dialect and the Capitano laughed. A gangplank was heaved into place and a couple of passengers stepped gingerly down towards dry land.         The woman had grey hair. The man wore a grey suit and a leather case hung from his neck—probably a camera. He held the woman’s hand.         Guerino shrugged. “I’ll be needing more than a couple of German tourists this year if I’m to redecorate this bar.”         “The Centomiglia is all right as it is.”         “A new coat of paint, some new chairs—and a new coffee machine.”         “It will lose all its character.”         “Tourists aren’t interested in character.”         A metal-green Mercedes came down the quayside towards the couple. At first, Trotti thought it was a taxi; the windows were tinted a dark grey. The exhaust pipe rattled.         Still holding the woman by the hand, the elderly German stepped backwards to avoid being run over.         The village was coming awake. The mist had vanished and a breeze had come up. In the small port the bare masts had started a rhythmic rocking movement.         “More coffee, Commissario?”         “Still, after all this time—you still call me Commissario?” Trotti shook his head as he held the photograph out for Guerino.         A young man climbed out of the passenger seat of the Mercedes.         The rear propeller of the Giuseppe Verdi began churning the water, the hull swung away from the land. Trotti stood up but it was too late. The German woman screamed and Trotti saw the husband turn to look at her in surprise.         The face hidden behind a red scarf. Bent knees, the clasped hands coming up slowly.         A gun, a P38.         Instinctively, Trotti threw himself to the ground. In his hand, he was still holding the photograph. The baby Guerino.   2: Mercedes   Wurlitzer jukebox.         Trotti had forgotten about it—an old, chrome-plated machine standing in the corner. He could remember Pioppi as a little girl, pestering him for coins to play her favorite songs: Bobby Solo and Fausto Leali.         His cheek was now pushed hard against the cold metal. Old cigarette stubs lay on the stone floor.         A first explosion—and plaster falling to the ground.         Another shot, then silence. The man had dropped his newspaper and was beside Trotti, behind the tipped-up table. He was crouching. One hand had gone to the waist of his trousers, to the butt of a pistol.         Third explosion.         The woman was still screaming. There was a sound of running feet.         The man did not draw the pistol. His hand was strangely bent, the palm upward. A rasping noise in his throat.         Trotti’s right hand was covered with a widening circle of blood. He moved forwards and peered over the upset table. Coffee had splashed across the floor.         The Giuseppe Verdi had cast off and was moving south. Trotti saw the Mercedes going along the lakeside and gathering speed.         Trotti took the man’s gun and he could feel no precise pain as he climbed to his feet. He fell, got up again and placing his weight on the table, moved unsteadily forward.         Froth at her mouth, the German woman still screamed, her head thrown back. Her husband was trying to quiet her.         Trotti broke into a run.         The Mercedes had reached the end of the Lungolago. Trotti shouted. Red lights flashed as the car braked, took the corner and moved out of Trotti’s line of vision.         Only one road out of Gardesana and the Mercedes would have to take it to get away.         He cut through the cobbled alley. Out of training and getting old. The alley was chill and smelled of cork and old wine. Trotti ran up the incline, leaning forwards, his breath coming with difficulty. He nearly fell when he came out into the main street.         The Mercedes was heading straight for him. Just the brief glimpse of the baker’s boy coming down the hill on his bicycle. No pedestrians, a few cars parked along the via XX Settembre.         The square metallic radiator grill was bearing down on him.         Trotti jumped back into the alley and fell headlong. The side of his head hit the cobbles.         “Are you all right?”         “Look at the number plate.” Trotti clambered to his feet.         “You’re bleeding.”         “Of course I’m bleeding.” Blood ran down the front of his sweater. Trotti looked down and a long, thin string of rheum and blood poured from his mouth.         “You’ve been shot.” The baker’s boy was rooted to the spot. He stood gaping foolishly.         “Get the number.”         “You’ve been shot,” the boy repeated.         Trotti shouted, “Never seen a bleeding nose before?” He began to tremble.         “Get the Carabinieri. Hurry, damn you.”         PC—Piazza. A Piacenza registration.         “Take your bike, will you, and get the Carabinieri.” He took out his wallet. “Look, look—Pubblica Sicurezza. Hurry up.”         A Piacenza number: Trotti had seen the two letters. But not the numbers.         The baker’s boy did not move.         “Hurry!”         Without taking his eyes from Trotti, the boy scrambled on to a heavy bicycle. A few rolls of fresh bread lay scattered on the ground.         “Hurry, damn you.”         The boy stood on the pedal and the bicycle moved away. Looking over his shoulder, he continued to stare at Trotti with gaping mouth.         Trotti walked back to the bar. Blood had started to drip onto his shoes.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The Puppeteer “The dialogue is a joy . . . [a] taut, ingenious novel. Long live Trotti.” —Financial Times   “Commissario Trotti is clever and tough . . . His investigation is fascinating to an American reader because it offers insights into the Italian power structure, which is far more interesting than it is stable.” —Newsday   “A reader has to be quick on his mental feet to follow Williams through [The Puppeteer], but the reading is worth the challenge.” —Charlaine Harris   “A fine novel for those seeking something a little out of the ordinary . . . a phlegmatic, intellectual detective, and a North Italian milieu flavored with oregano, olive oil, left-wing polities and crime . . . The plotting is crisp and the details pungent.” —Chicago Sun-Times“Trotti, whose patch is an unnamed small town in northern Italy, is dogged, cynical, and worries about his wife and anorexic daughter. But above all, he’s honest in a society and political system in which corruption flourishes.”—The Sunday Times   “Castaing, Maigret and their colleagues will welcome Piero Trotti to their ranks with pleasure . . . expert dialogue, realistic characterisation and evocative sense of time and place . . . [A] sophisticated thriller.” —Irish Times   “Trotti is a detective one would be happy to meet again.” —Sunday Independent (Ireland) “You don't often get detectives as roundly and palpably portrayed as Timothy Williams's Trotti . . . [The murderer's] true identity is brilliantly concealed by Williams among a cast or characters as memorable and as vulnerable as Trotti himself. “ —Oxford Times “A first-rate series of procedurals . . . The mouthwatering glimpses of the Italian countryside provide just enough flavor of everyday Italy to make the revelations convincing. The writing is taut and exact and the tensions among characters and between past and present are often subtly drawn.” —San Jose Mercury News    ”Packed with deception, incident and intrigue.” —Bolton Evening News   “Williams, a gifted storyteller, has created another stupendous mystery.” —Publishers Weekly “With Williams’s impressively detailed backgrounds and quietly effective narration, the north-Italy milieu remains somberly distinctive —so fans of dark-edged, politically textured Euro-mystery will want to keep track of Trotti’s adventures.” —Kirkus Reviews “An interesting combination: Italian history, police systems, a crime and a human, suffering policeman . . . A very good thriller.” —Jewish Gazette “A complex, tautly-written thriller.”—Woman's World “Filled with offbeat characters. Williams's tense, stylish writing creates another easy-to-read 'whodunit' for mystery fans.” —Asheville Citizen Times “Trotti is diligent, honest and smart . . . [His investigation] works out amid realistic backgrounds of family, cities, offices, restaurants, cars, highways, and Italian police procedure.” —Ormand Beach News “[The Puppeteer’s] storyline is involved, revolving around an Italian society of twisted family loyalties and bureaucratic deceptions. Trotti himself is a creature of single-mindedness and brutal effectiveness, stripping away layers of red tape and exposing a colorful collection of suspects. Solid genre fane.” —PLR “[Williams's] characters are richly delineated and the plot is carried forward in alternating passages of vivid visual storytelling and realistic, oblique, and frequently darkly comic dialogue . . . Don't expect neat resolutions, though. Like Donna Leon, Williams refuses neat endings and portrays even more definitively than Leon the corruption that forecloses justice in Italy.” —International Noir Fiction Praise for the Commissario Piero Trotti series  "A delight.” —The Observer, "10 Best Modern European Crime Writers"   "Subtle, tense and gripping.” —Val McDermid   “Superb.” —The Scotsman “Breathtakingly good.” —Evening Standard“Wake up and smell the grappa. Big Italy is a chilling education, a scalpel-sharp exploration of Italy’s body politic. Timothy Williams knows the ABC of corruption—Andreotti, Berlusconi, Craxi—and is a convincing and compelling voice.” —Ian Rankin “The ageing moody Trotti is a subtle and convincing creation; the other characters are portrayed with depth and sensitivity, and the Italian atmosphere is authentically beguiling. First-rate in every way.” —The Times   “Simple but stylish . . . [Williams's] plotting [is] impeccable.” —Time Out   “Fans of dark-edged, politically textured Euro-mystery will want to keep track of Trotti’s adventures.” —Kirkus Reviews   “Stylish and excellent. Those who like Dibdin will eat it up.” —Lionel Davidson   “Williams writes like an angel. He does, but thank Beelzebub, it's a mongrel angel with a bit of fiend about him.” —Oxford Times   “Trotti himself is perversely lovable; totally dedicated but not without dark, self-deprecating humor.” —Booklist“Commissario Trotti is an inspired creation.”  —Sunday Times