I had just finished the BBC series Luther on Netflix and was very much in the mood for another psychological thriller with a broody and troubled detective, so Sandrone Dazieri’s Kill the Father came at a perfect time. A murder scene with a missing child is potentially the work of The Father, a serial killer who kidnapped and psychologically tortured young boys before killing them. He hadn’t been active for a while, but this crime could signal his return.
A police chief enlists the help of two individuals: Dante Torre, a recluse who had been held captive by The Father as a child and managed to escape, and Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli, a “warrior-like” detective on administrative leave after a police operation she was partly responsible for goes very badly.
Kill the Father is a doorstop of a novel at almost 500 pages, but it doesn’t feel all that long because the story does a great job of propelling you along. The mystery is compelling — the more we learn of what Dante experienced while he was The Father’s captive, the more we want The Father or whomever the kidnapper is in the present-day case, to be brought to justice. Dazieri paints a harrowing picture of what it’s like to be kept captive, without too much detail, and while we never delve deep enough into the characters’ psyches to feel claustrophobic ourselves, we certainly get enough of a picture to sympathize with the victims. A scene where a boy is seen on videotape wiping himself down with a washcloth is particularly heartbreaking when we learn that his movements follow a precise pattern set by his captor.
Dazieri does a great job of making Dante and Colomba’s realities real for us, so that we see Dante’s captivity as a child and Colomba’s experience at work affect them even months or years after. For example, Dante was kept in a silo for about ten years and so is very claustrophic. When he follows Colomba and other police officers down the stairs of his apartment building, it takes him about 45 minutes to reach the first floor, because of how being in a stairwell affects him. Colomba as well has PTSD, and their dynamic as a team is interesting, as they’re both very good at their jobs, but also very vulnerable, and they take turns propping each other up as needed.
The big reveal turns out to be bigger and darker than Dante and Colomba originally thought, and while part of me appreciates Dazieri upping the ante, this reveal also made the story feel more impersonal to me, and detached me somewhat from the experience. Still, overall Kill the Father was a compelling thriller with strong characters, and I look forward to reading future books in this series.
1. How’d you come up with the idea for this novel?
One day, walking through the fields around my home town, Cremona (in the north of Italy and famous for violins and nougat) I saw a silo that stood in the middle of nowhere. I thought that whatever happened there, no one would ever know. For example, someone could have been a prisoner in that silo … In that moment the character of Dante Torre was born.
2. Both Dante and Colomba have incredibly scarred psyches due to past experiences. What research did you do, if any, in creating these aspects of their characters?
I am interested in psychological and neurological diseases and I read a lot about that. All my characters (even in previous novels) are tormented and wounded. I’m fascinated by the different views of the world that other people can judge as “crazy”. Probably because I’m not “neurotypical” too.
3. Where do you see the series going next? Will the mysteries be as intensely personal to one or both of the lead characters as this one was?
The second novel of the series (The Angel, published in Italy two months ago) revolves around an ISIS massacre in Rome. Meanwhile we learn something about Dante’s family. The third and final chapter, that I’m writing now (Brothers), it’s about Dante’s past and a serial killer that is connected to him.
4. You write both novels and screenplays. Would you be interested in writing the screenplay for Kill the Father if it’s adapted for screen?
I’d like to be the supervisor of the project and not to write it. It’s very difficult to adapt your novel for another media. It’s easier with the someone else job…
5. What was the most recent book you’ve read and absolutely loved?
Fireman, by Joe Hill.
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Mark your calendars! @SimonSchusterCA and @Kobo are hosting a Twitter chat with author @SandroneDazieri on February 22 at 10 am ET. Join in with hashtag #DarkSideReadsChat!
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.