The gripping new conspiracy thriller by the bestselling author of The Name of the Rose
1945, Lake Como. Mussolini and his mistress are captured and shot by local partisans. The precise circumstances of Il Duce’s death remain shrouded in confusion and controversy.
1992, Milan. Colonna takes a job at a fledgling newspaper financed by a powerful media magnate. There he learns the paranoid theories of Braggadocio, who is convinced that Mussolini’s corpse was a body-double and part of a wider Fascist plot.
Colonna is sceptical. But when a body is found, stabbed to death in a back alley, and the paper is shut down, even he is jolted out of his complacency.
Fuelled by conspiracy theories, Mafiosi, love, corruption and murder, Numero Zero reverberates with the clash of forces that have shaped Italy since the Second World War. This gripping novel from the author of The Name of the Rose is told with all the power of a master storyteller.
At the heart of Eco's short, satiric novel beats a rant against contemporary journalism and the suspicion-rich, fact-poor culture it nurtures. In 1992, Colonna a 50ish university dropout who ekes out a living as a hack journalist/manuscript reviewer/proofreader/fact-checker is hired by Milan editor Simei to help produce sample issues of a proposed (mock) newspaper underwritten by an ambitious hotel and nursing home magnate for his private use. Colonna's new job includes ghostwriting Simei's book about the newspaper experiment, for his own purposes. At editorial meetings, the newspaper's six reporters are taught such journalistic techniques as dumbing down, grouping stories to suggest worrisome themes, responding to complaints by casting aspersions on the complainer, quoting sources real and imaginary, and slanting news while maintaining an objective posture. As the newspaper takes shape, Colonna becomes romantically involved with Maia, the horoscope writer, and befriends Bragadaccio. Formerly a magazine freelancer for What They Don't Tell Us, Bragadaccio is obsessed with the idea that Mussolini is alive, well, and living in Argentina, with the coverup connecting the CIA, a right-wing/Catholic conspiracy, and sundry government scandals. For Eco (The Prague Cemetery), 20th-century history is a mud river beneath Italian society, creating sinkholes for truth and principle. Historical fiction still inspires his best writing, but while romance and humor have never been his forte, they are both credible here. Unfortunately, the promise of a psychological/political thriller remains unfulfilled. As fact and fiction merge into mystery, Eco offers fewer clues than in his masterwork, The Name of the Rose, but no William of Baskerville to solve the puzzle.