Eleven of the twelve passengers in a boat plane making a trip across Italy watch the twelfth head to the front of the plane and lock himself in the tiny toilet cubicle. Thirty minutes later, when he has not emerged, someone else impatiently bangs on the door and insists the current occupant allows others to avail themselves of the conveniences. No reply is forthcoming. When the door is broken down, having been bolted in the expected manner, there is no sign of the passenger, nor any exit large enough to admit his egress (he was rather too, ahem, corpulent to have slipped through the skylight). So…where is he? And, more to the point, how did he get there?
As translator Igor Longo’s excellent afterword explains, the Italian contribution to the classic mystery novel has been rather scant, and this is my own first experience of that country’s take on the Grandest Game in the World. In many ways, it conforms to expectations — we see the majority of the action via the viewpoint of journalist Giorgio Vallesi (who, on account of his friendship with policeman Luigi Renzi, is allowed to be far more present at all aspects of the investigation than should probably be legally possible), there is romance in Vallesi’s (slightly creepy, it has to be said) pursuit of the beautiful Marcella Arteni, and there is plenty of intelligent speculation on the nature of the crime under consideration:
[H]ow could any murderer foresee the banker’s visit to the toilet at exactly the right moment? And what if another person had fallen into the trap? In any case, the bigwig’s statement rendered and external intervention in the toilet quite impossible. it was ridiculous to think that someone could have already been hidden in that small space, and all the passengers were present and accounted for when the banker entered the toilet.