Blood in the Snow by Franco Marks – extract

Blood in the Snow by Franco Marks was published by Aria on 20 November 2018.

Aria have kindly allowed me to share this extract with you.

Marzio undressed completely. He needed to get some air on his body, get rid of the death. He, who loved the cold, was frozen. He was trembling, too. He got under the shower and scrubbed himself like an animal, hoping that at least the most hostile molecules, the bacteria of that absurd morning, would disappear, that he could sluice away the memory of Elisabetta. He rubbed himself with soap and sponge until it hurt, until his skin was sore. It had been a long time since he had felt the details of his body. Powerful and muscular. Invincible. Elisabetta too, as young as him and at the height of her strength, seemed invulnerable. And in an instant she had been scattered across the sky like smoke from a chimney.

He passed in front of the mirror. He was able to not look at himself for months at atime. Only when he injured himself with a razor blade or had a pimple did he discover that he possessed a face. He didn’t like the way he looked naked: he was frighteningly hairy, like a monkey. His penis dangled dormant, useless. Despite the terriblemoment, his expression was calm. He had the chaste look of the religious, the man who had arrived like a lightning bolt in Elisabetta’s heart. When she cuddled him, caressed his ears and nibbled on his penis, Marzio became an astonished child. His eyes opened defencelessly, partly because he had never received so much sweetness in his whole life.

He put on his uniform. It was like slipping into another existence. He fiddled with the tie. He was so unused to knotting it that it took a while. He had to cling to these little things; only his job and his policeman’s mind would allow him to survive. He summoned up all his professional vigour, his desire to investigate thoroughly, todiscover the truth. To honour Elisabetta’s memory.

His Vespa awaited him faithfully. A certainty, the only one he had left. He started it and there was the thunderous noise of exhaust and petrol, the metallic tremor, all homely sensations. It was the friend he had left. Almost as though not wishing to disappoint him, the engine seemed more aggressive than usual – it had a new rumble, and it popped at the curves and took the gear changes easily, an indomitable little devil. At that speed, the heat that was making even the forest sluggish turned into cool air. Marzio took deep breaths, filling his lungs. It was a supply that he would need over the next few torrid hours.

At the Bucaneve he found a crowd of villagers all pressing around Kristal. He looked like a twig atop a tidal wave. He was skinny and afraid of the cold but couldn’t manage to dress like a mountain man. He’d been born in Turpino, a northern city, but he hated the mountains. Marzio looked at him while he held back the crowd that had formed around the place. His heart went out to him – where were the tough cops who were supposed to be able to face people down?

“Go and get into uniform right now, quickly.”

Reinforcements were necessary. Marzio knew that within the hour, hundreds of people would arrive. Carabinieri, magistrates, investigators, half to investigate and half just to show their faces. Soprani would come by helicopter.

Marzio struggled through the crowd. The ones most persistently asking questions were the usual group of skiers. They still smelled of Nutella and malted milk, and their boredom was driving them to focus their attention on the tragedy. He also passed a gang of villagers and caught a strong whiff of Ginpin. Many of them were already drunk – it was one way of dealing with such an upsetting event. Outside the door of apartment twelve he found Dik, Osvaldo’s Irish setter. He was scratching at the door as if he wanted to enter. Dik, who was always calm, had nervous eyes and was whining. Marzio stroked him and realised that he was trembling, his shining coat shivering. Dik sensed something, a feeling. If it had not been too odd to countenance, he would have sworn that the dog was crying. Marzio led Dik out of the Bucaneve. The setter gave him one last look of understanding, then ran quickly towards the beech forest.

When Inspector Santoni returned to apartment twelve, the air was clean and the light livid, as if the four bodies had spread the colour of death around them. Marzio looked at Elisabetta: she had crystallised. The grimace that didn’t belong to her made her look even more unrecognisable, almost like a mask. In a way it comforted him – itwould make it easier to carry out the investigation.

The remains in the rubbish confirmed the revelry. Elisabetta had cooked a large quantity of fish and the leftovers were separated between the different bins: in the one for kitchen waste was the remains of the fish, buttered spinach, apple peel and cores; in the one for glass, three red wine bottles and one of Ginpin.

He checked the paper bin carefully; there was no message, only greasy yellow sheets of paper from the butcher’s, some disposable containers, a newspaper, their unused ski passes and a large envelope of rough paper. It smelled like fish. Tissues too, some seemingly dirty with vomit. There were signs in the bathroom that one of the girls had been sick. Very strange that Elisabetta, who was so fussy, had forgotten to clean the sink thoroughly. Those fragments of spinach were a puzzle, like the stained bathroom. It was hard to believe she hadn’t bothered. Elisabetta had sorted out the rubbish with zeal, but had been so drunk that the pieces of spinach had escaped her? Overcome with sleep, perhaps something had happened. And the blue mark on her wrist? Had she been attacked? What if one of them had decided to turn on the gas? A crazed assault on life itself?

About the book

Marzio Santoni left behind the brutal crimes of the big city long ago.

Valdiluce is a quiet ski resort, where all he needs is the peace, quiet and his trusty vespa.

At first glance, the town inhabitants are as perfect as their postcard scenery. But under the surface, nothing is as it seems…

So when four women are discovered dead, seemingly by their own hand, Marzio can sense that something isn’t right. Fighting against his police chief, his own emotions and the evidence stacked against him, Marzio is caught up in a race against time to discover what truly happened.

Gripping, shocking and packed with a punch that will leave you reeling long after the last page.

About the author

Franco Marks is a writer and television director who lives and works in Rome. He has written the novels La neve rossa, Il visionario (shortlisted for the 2003 Strega Prize), Festa al blu di Prussia (winner of the Procida Isola di Arturo – Elsa Morante Prize 2005), Il profumo della neve (shortlisted for the 2007 Strega Prize), Lo show della farfalla (shortlisted for the 2010 Viareggio-Repaci Prize), Il suicidio perfetto, La mossa del cartomante, Tre cadaveri sotto la neve, Lo strano caso dell’orso ucciso nel bosco, Delitto con inganno and Giallo di mezzanotte. His books have been translated in several countries.

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