A VERY PRIVATE GENTLEMAN

Martin Booth, Author
Martin Booth, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $23.95 (274p) ISBN 978-0-312-30908-4
Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 01/01/2004
Hardcover - 278 pages - 978-0-7126-3428-1
Paperback - 274 pages - 978-0-312-30909-1
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4299-7103-4
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-986-6211-05-8
Hardcover - 978-1-86042-077-1
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Booth's brilliantly creepy psychological suspense novel follows a so-called "shadow-dweller" (a technical weapons expert who creates and supplies the tools for high-level assassins) to a rural village in southern Italy where he poses as "Signor Farfalla," a quiet artist who paints miniatures of butterflies and has traveled to the area to capture a unique native specimen. As the artist, whose real name is Clark, settles into the local scene, most of his new acquaintances accept his enigmatic alias, with the notable exception of Father Benedetto, the priest who pushes him to reveal himself in a series of confessional conversations over glasses of Armagnac. Between painting the minutely detailed butterfly studies and preparing for his next job, Clark carouses with a pair of local prostitutes, Dindina and Clara, eventually slipping into a serious affair with the latter. As he gets weapons specs and begins constructing a new gun, he learns that his latest customer is a woman whose next target may be Yasser Arafat. Suddenly he senses another "shadow-dweller" on his trail; this anonymous figure remains a mystery to Clark until their climactic showdown. The lazy, languid setting is an eerily effective backdrop for the fresh and beguiling murder intrigue, and the flashbacks into Clark's cold, brutal past are cleverly juxtaposed against his budding romance with young, naïve Clara. With first-rate characters and a gradual buildup of suspense, Booth constructs his most focused, tightly written novel to date, reminiscent of William Trevor's classic Felicia's Journey and the late Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels. (Jan.)

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