A gripping thriller full of twists you won’t see coming…….
It’s been two years since mass murderer, Glacomo Riondino, disappeared after killing Greta Alfien….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 on 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 Riondino. But, unlike Riondino’s other vicitms, 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?
About the Author
Monty, 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.
Blog Tour Information
Monty and the staff at Aria have kindly provided an extract for you. Enjoy.
“The passenger held out his passport and immigration form to the customs officer, a white guy with cold eyes and a sharp face. After reading his name on the document, the officer briefly looked him over and then pressed a buzzer. A few seconds later, an imposing black man clad in a dark suit appeared and politely invited the passenger to follow him into a small office in the airport police area. As soon as he entered, Joseph E. Munro, the FBI man in charge of the NCAVC –the National Centre for the Analysis of Violent Crime, of which the Behavioural Analysis Unit was part – got up from his desk.
“Welcome back to the US, Doctor Claps!” he exclaimed with a wide smile.
“Good to see you again,” replied Claps seriously in good English. “It’s been years,” he added, accepting the man’s vigorous handshake and surprised at how naturally the words came out.
Munro had run the course on the behaviour of violent offenders that Claps – who had spent more than a year living in the FBI training centre at Quantico – had attended, and there was a great deal of mutual respect between the two. Since then, they had remained in regular contact, but over the last week the exchange of emails between them had become almost frantic.
“Sheila Ross,” said Munro, handing Claps a photograph. “Twenty-six years old. She disappeared in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Her family is one of the most prominent in Atlanta, and her grandfather is a former state senator who is kicking up one hell of a fuss about it.”
It was the standard posed college yearbook photo: the girl was smiling, showing a row of perfectly aligned white teeth. The beauty of her face, with its radiant smile and light blue eyes, was beyond question, but her posture was too mannered to be able to tell anything real about the person. After a few seconds, Claps set the picture down on the desk.
“For months she’d been planning a vacation in the Galapagos with her friend, Alice Hartford,” continued Munro. “On their way back from the islands, they made a stopover at Guayaquil where they were planning to stay a couple of days before moving on to Quito. But they never got there. Sheila disappeared the night before they were due to leave. That was twelve days ago.”
A long time. Almost certainly too long for her to still be alive.
“You already told me all this in your email. Tell me about the Italian. That’s why I’m here.” Once again, the words came out smoothly: for some mysterious reason hidden in the folds of his neuropathology, speaking English instead of his own language meant that Claps’ speech was devoid of those hesitations and stutters which were the result of the aphasia which had struck him years ago.
“That afternoon they went to visit Malecon, the neighbourhood along the river that runs through the city. At one point, Sheila decided to take a break at an open air bar while her friend visited the botanical gardens. As the friend was returning, she saw Sheila in the distance sitting at a table talking to a man who left just before she got there. Sheila was euphoric – she told her friend that she’d managed to speak to that nice man in Italian…”
“Wait a second,” interrupted Claps, “Sheila Ross could speak Italian?” Munro nodded. “Her family has Italian origins, and she spent three years in Perugia studying comparative culture at the University for Foreigners.”
“Sorry, I interrupted you… Carry on.”
“She told her friend that it had been a bit of luck, and not just because she’d had the chance to speak Italian again: the man, who had said that he was from Milan but had been there in Guayaquil for work just over two years, was really nice and had told her all the places it was worth seeing in the few hours they would be in town, saying that they really should visit the Cerro de Santa Ana. It’s a hill with a view of the whole city.”
Milan… The city Riondino was from. In Ecuador for two years… It had been two years since that bastard had disappeared. Claps didn’t let any of the excitement and anger that he began to feel humming beneath his skin show.
“Do we have a description of the Italian?”
“It’s so generic that it’s not much use.”
“But it might—”
This time it was Munro who interrupted him.
“The physical description fits with the data we have about Giacomo Riondino. But also with millions of other people as well.”
“Didn’t he give her his name?”
“We don’t know. If he did, Sheila didn’t tell her friend.”
“There’s another thing. That morning, the girls took dozens of photographs. You know what kids today are like with their phones: selfies and pulling weird face, and a few pictures of the place.”
“The Italian was wearing a hat, a panama. Well, in two of the photographs they took before Sheila met him, in the background, in the distance, you can see a man wearing a panama. We blew up the photos as much as possible: he’s turned towards them, but has his head and chest turned away, as though at the last moment he’d tried to stop his face appearing in the picture. And the clothes he is wearing also correspond to the description Hartford gave us: a light coloured linen suit.”
“Did the girl identify the man in the photo as the Italian?”
“She wasn’t sure, but she didn’t rule out that they might be the same person.”
“So he was following her…” murmured Claps, as though to himself.
“In reality, we can’t be certain that the man in the photos is the Italian, but we think there’s a very good chance that he was.”
A half smile appeared on Claps’ lips: in Munro’s language, which he had learned to interpret during his time at Quantico, that ‘very good chance’ was a certainty.”
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