Written by Conor Fitzgerald
Bloomsbury, 2011; 378 pages
A man lies dead in a Roman piazza. Is he simply the unfortunate victim of a local mugger with a penchant for preying on tourists? Or is there something more sinister to the story? With the help of his associate Caterina, Blume is called to the case. But they're not alone: a colonel from the Carabinieri -- military police -- is trying to control the investigation. Blume, unwilling to give way to a rival investigator, goes hard after his target.
If the killing was an accident, why is the colonel so deeply interested? Perhaps the reason is that this particular victim had an unusual occupation: He forged classical paintings for a living, and he did it better than anyone else on the market. His death reawakens issues from Italy's violent past, calls into question the reputations of certain people in the present, and promises great wealth in the future for whoever resolves its mystery. Relying on old friends and intuitions, Blume hurls himself into the investigation, at great risk to his job, his neck, and anyone who trusts him.
It's not at all unusual for me to put a book aside, read something else for a while, and then return to the book that was shelved. But when it happens over and over with the same book, then I know something's wrong. That was my problem with Conor Fitzgerald's The Fatal Touch, and the reason it took me so long to finish it. Maybe I just wasn't as good a match with the book as I thought I'd be. Or maybe it was the fact that once again, against all better judgment, I jumped into a series without reading the book that started it all (Fitzgerald's The Dogs of Rome).
It's a puzzle because I found the main character, Commissioner Alec Blume (a transplanted American and veteran police officer who enjoys art and literature), very appealing. I also enjoyed the story of the art forger, Englishman Henry Treacy, mostly told through quotes from his personal notebooks.
But I thought the plot in general was fuzzy and disjointed, and the central mystery not all that mysterious or compelling. However, the art world setting and the fact that it all took place in Rome (one of my dream cities) kept me coming back. It certainly wasn't the worst mystery I've read, but I had hoped for much more.
Note: My copy of this book was provided free of charge by the publisher, through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was offered or provided, and no one attempted to influence my opinion of the book.