The beautiful, young Countess Fiorenza d’Arda has died dramatically at her villa near Lake Geneva. Judge François Ferpierre, the senior magistrate assigned to Lausanne’s central court, arrives to investigate whether it was murder or suicide. In either case, who is responsible? A diverse set of characters — including two Russian anarchists and a melancholy young poet, each struggling with their own complex moral, political and artistic dilemmas — all become suspects. Ferpierre works on shifting ground as each new revelation uncovers another aspect of the case, another quandary shedding new light on intertwining motivations.
Agony is the first English-language translation of Federico De Roberto’s Spasimo, a psychological-detective novel. Here, for the first time, a Sicilian author has written a detective procedural. De Roberto, a master of verismo, is celebrated today for his acute political, social, and psychological insights. His work was held in high esteem by Leonardo Sciascia, who deemed De Roberto’s I Viceré the greatest Italian novel after Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi.