"A different ,but good, kind of mystery"
The narrator, one of four research scientists to arrive
at Mancanzano, Italy to study the prehistoric frescoes
found in the nearby caves, writes a letter to his pregnant
New York girlfriend relating events here. However,
intruding on the scientific efforts are two dead naked
teenagers just beneath the drawings. Their mouths are
filled with the mystically medicinal grounded form of tufa
that seems to be everywhere.
As they carefully work with the frescoes, the quartet
finds more pictures this time of bleeding cherubim
alongside dead naked people, but soon more teens die in the
caves. As the narrator learns more about the local legends
and history of Mancanzano, he falls into a local darkness
that teeters on the insane. He adds to his perplexity when
he begins a heated affair with a member of the "asylum".
When their passion cools, they squabble until she is found
dead and he is accused of her homicide.
SASSO is at its best when it focuses on the irony of
the lofty narrator being sucked into the mystical mayhem
and insanity of the locals. When the story line tries to
turn into a philosopher's stone, it bogs down as "tufa"
ostentatious. James Sturz shows he has a tremendous gift
especially providing a murder mystery with a touch of the
mystic and plenty of the absurd, but SASSO, though
entertaining and darkly humorous, tries to be too much when
it turns reflectively intellectual. Still this reviewer
looks forward to more works from Mr. Sturz, an obvious
Reviewed by PNR Group Member
Posted March 10, 2002