Murder is always a mistake – one should never do anything one cannot talk about after dinner… Oscar Wilde


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Indecent secrets: the infamous Murri murder affair New York: Free Press, c 2006 Christina Vella Trials (Murder)Italy Turin, Bonmartini, Francesco, conte, d. 1902 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xiii, 395 p.: ill.; 22 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 345-381) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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On a hot summer day in Italy in 1902, the brutally stabbed body of Count Francesco Bonmartini was discovered, by means of its decomposing stench, inside his locked apartment. He was a typical Italian provincial aristocrat in all but one way: he had married into a prominent but deeply troubled family. His father-in-law was one of the nation’s most famous doctors. His wife, Linda, a young freethinker, was the apple of her father’s eye. Linda’s brother dabbled in anarchism. Linda’s lover was her father’s top assistant. Her relations with them were illicit, incestuous – and murderous.

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The scandal that erupted was a top news story in Europe and America for three consecutive years. Investigators uncovered successive layers of a conspiracy that constantly twisted and changed its shape. The suspects included all these men as well as their servants and lovers. There was a diverse array of murder weapons, including knives, heavy pellets, and poison. There were rumors of missing accomplices. Intimate relations among many suspects were uncovered through sensational letters and testimonials. Witnesses died mysteriously. A suspect tried to kill himself. One question lingered throughout and still haunts researchers today: what role did Bonmartini’s widow, Linda, known as “The Enchantress,” play? Was she the spider at the center of the vast web, or did the plot originate with the key men who loved her so desperately?

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Vella combines research of the scandal sheets with a novelist’s eye for a great story. As she unspools the drama, she offers a fascinating picture of Italian society in the early 20th century, with insights into life at both the top and the bottom. From sexual dysfunctions, to prison conditions, to the patronage systems that permeated medicine, law, and politics, the Bonmartini murder provides a window into a rich world. The result is an unforgettable story and an invaluable introduction to an Italy that is still recognizable today.

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