How well can we know anyone we are close to? That is the question the narrator Gianni Orzan strives to answer in Veronesi's prize-winning seventh novel and first English-language release. Mere weeks after Gianni's father is buried in contemporary Rome, Gianni, a writer of children's books, is confronted by a menacing cab driver who suggests that Gianni's father led a life of espionage. Is it possible his father was a KGB operative from 1945 to his death? And how does the cab driver know such intimate details about the family? Veronesi is far more concerned with Gianni's inner workings and self-doubt - his anguish at having been unable to get along with his father, his worries about his weaknesses as a writer and his distress at the prospect of his wife's infidelity-than with the suspense story underpinning his narrative. But Gianni's companionable voice, and Veronesi's talent for evoking the texture of everyday life in Rome ("outside, the friendly sounds... began to reemerge: an ambulance siren, warped by the Doppler effect, the monstrous roar of an accelerating motorcycle") give the novel a comfortable, conversational feel. The meandering interior monologues pose a challenge for the translator, who makes an admirable effort, but sometimes stumbles into poetic opacity-"The sun was slowly setting over the Janiculum, and the muezzin of abuse had struck up the same litany as the day before, with the same desperation as the day before"-and the secondary characters are mostly just grist for Gianni's musings. Nevertheless, this is a novel of low-key charms and roundabout pleasures.