In Milan, Italy, in the fall of 1962, a small body in a bag is
placed beneath the slab of a war memorial to Italian Partisans from
1945. Guiriati Field is the site of the crime. Inspector David
Montorsi wades into the mud and fog at the field and conducts the
investigation into the child's murder.
Years later, in March 2001, a character called the Old Man tracks
the movements of an American to 53 Via Padova, in Milan. Aided by
directions from a boy and a Pakistani, he follows the American and
shoots him. The Old Man has been fooled by an exact double. The
American is free to meet his contact from Ishmael and proceed with
his business. Inspector Guido Lopez is the detective first at the
scene of the crime. He is puzzled by bizarre findings, in addition
to the gunshot wounds found on the body during the autopsy. There
is evidence of masochistic sexual activity.
Translated from the Italian, the text gives the English reader
minor problems in keeping track of Italian characterizations. Not
only are the names unfamiliar, but the action skips back and forth
from 1962 to 2001. In one chapter, Montorsi seeks the child's
murderer while coping with his pregnant wife's panic attacks and
depression. The following chapter deals with Lopez's dogged search
for the murderer responsible for the dead man on Via Padova.
Subsequent chapters follow the same pattern.
Giuseppe Genna involves his reader immediately with the two murders
and the need to solve the hideous crimes. But IN THE NAME OF
ISHMAEL slows in the telling when the concept of Ishmael is
introduced. Ishmael's name is invoked as a God figure,
orchestrating international action and subplots. One questions the
identity of this deity throughout the book. The Italian detectives
chase Ishmael from Brussels to Paris, Hamburg and back to Milan for
the clues that will solve the case.
The story involves powerful Italian politicians, journalists, and
Henry Kissinger. Their motivations twist into an international
struggle for power in Europe. The events unfold over the course of
39 years and conclude with the two investigations co-mingled. Genna
depicts his main characters with empathy and feeling. Both
detectives show grit and determination, personality flaws
notwithstanding. Both men are capable of undying affection.
Each finds his work stymied by upper management for unknown
reasons. Both discover that Ishmael lies at the bottom of their
search for the truth. Finally, Ishmael is identified to the
The use of sadism to achieve power is a theme found throughout the
ages. Genna's IN THE NAME OF ISHMAEL gives teeth to the idea and
examines the realities of power mongers throughout the world. Good
versus evil, the struggle between perpetrators and problem solvers
make for a good read.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 22, 2011
In the Name of Ishmael