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What We Buried

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About The Book

A Toronto homicide detective is attacked at his doorstep when his investigation into possible links between the Nazi occupation of Italy and the murder of his brother decades later gets too close to the truth—in the new crime thriller from bestselling author Robert Rotenberg. Perfect for fans of Scott Turow and David Baldacci.

It’s been years since Daniel Kennicott’s brother, Michael, was shot and killed the night before he was about to depart for Gubbio, Italy. The case, never solved, has haunted Daniel ever since. Long suspecting the killing was tied to Michael’s planned trip but overwhelmed with grief, Daniel has put off going there—until now, the tenth anniversary of the murder.

As he’s about to leave, Daniel learns that his two mentors, detectives Ari Greene and Nora Bering, have been more involved in the investigation of Michael’s murder than he ever knew. And they’re concerned about Daniel’s safety. But why? Is Daniel risking his life—and those of others—by trying to uncover the truth?

When Daniel arrives in the bucolic Italian hill town, he learns the past has not been put to rest. Residents are still haunted by the brutal Nazi occupation, the brave acts of the local freedom fighters, and the swift savagery of German retribution.

And as Daniel delves into his family’s deadly connection to Gubbio, Ari Greene searches for a killer closer to home.

Inspired by the true story of the Forty Martyrs in Gubbio, Italy, during World War II, What We Buried is an extraordinary crime novel about troubled legacies, revenge, and the unbreakable bonds of family.

Excerpt

1. Kennicott KENNICOTT
FIVE FORTY-FIVE IN THE morning and, as it did six days a week, Angela’s cell phone alarm went off—like clockwork Kennicott often joked—to wake her up for her five-mile morning run. On a good week, when he wasn’t working on an ongoing homicide investigation or in court on a murder trial, Kennicott would haul himself out of bed, jam on his running shoes, and they’d hit the early-morning streets together. But today he wasn’t going to join her. He had somewhere else he had to go and for the last two hours he’d been staring at the ceiling, not moving a muscle. Thinking.

He felt Angela’s body jerk with the beep, beep, beep sound of the alarm and turned to watch as she groped on the floor beside the bed, fumbled with her phone, and clicked off the alarm. She rolled over and stared at him. Even in the dim morning light, he could feel her dark eyes piercing right through him.

“Did you sleep?” she asked.

“A little,” he said.

“You’re such a lousy liar,” she said as she slid the phone under her pillow and reached out to caress the top of his chest. “How long have you been up?”

He rolled his eyes.

She propped herself up on her elbow, hand under her ear, her eyes still fixed on his. She swished her long black hair back and forth making it ripple in the air like a dark flag waving in the wind.

“Do you want me to come with you this morning?” she asked.

“No,” he said, touching her cheek. “Go for your run.”

She eased his hand away from her face.

“Daniel, we’ve been together for more than three years, and every summer it’s the same thing.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, intertwining his fingers in hers. “You didn’t sign up for this.”

He had a sudden urge to kiss her, to squeeze her to him, to hold on to the moment so he didn’t have to face the next few hours. The tenth anniversary of his brother Michael’s murder was coming up and because it was a cold case, every year he had an annual “victim’s meeting” with the detective in charge of the file. Ari Greene, his boss and his mentor.

The meetings brought everything back to Kennicott: his guilt for arriving late for dinner with his brother on the day Michael was murdered, his belief that the killing was related to his parents’ suspicious deaths two years earlier, and his long-burning frustration that the case had never been solved.

He didn’t blame Greene. Michael’s murder was the detective’s only unsolved homicide, and Kennicott knew how much it ate away at him too. Still, every year when they’d have their early-morning meetings, it was the same story, like listening to a newscast over and over in an infuriating Groundhog Day–like nightmare.

“I wish I had better news for you,” Greene had said again last year. “No new leads.”

“You’re still working on something, aren’t you?”

“Always,” Greene replied, giving Kennicott his Cheshire Cat grin, the one he was famous for in the department, the one that said, “You know I always have a source working on this.” And Kennicott had learned over the years that homicide detectives never revealed their sources until they were ready to. Not even to each other.

“Thanks, Ari,” he said.

“Never thank me,” Greene said. “It’s my job.”

Angela lifted her head, put her hand on Kennicott’s shoulder, and gave him a friendly shove. “Roll over, mister,” she commanded. “I need to give you a cuddle.”

They disengaged their fingers and he let her roll him onto his side. He felt the warmth of her body curl in next to him. Her lips to his ear.

“Ever since we met,” she whispered, “you’ve been telling me you want to go back to that town in Italy where your brother was headed the night he was killed.”

“Gubbio. It’s called Gubbio.”

“Every year you come up with an excuse: You need to spend more time on the homicide squad. You’re working on a case. You’re involved in a trial.”

He found himself nodding.

“You told me,” she said, her hands gliding to the back of his neck, massaging him with her strong fingers, digging deep, “Detective Greene said you should always walk in the footsteps of your victim. I don’t understand why you keep putting off this trip?”

He took a deep breath in, exhaled.

“Sometimes it’s easier to ignore things that are too painful than to face them. I see that with families of homicide victims all the time.”

“Sounds like you’re hiding from yourself. What are you afraid of?”

Outside the window he could see the first hints of the sun brightening the sky.

“Maybe I’m afraid of what I’ll find.”

He rolled back over, kissed her on the forehead, slid out of the bed, went across to his clothes closet, and pulled out a shoebox buried under a pile of sweaters.

Sitting back beside Angela, he flicked on his bedside light.

“What’s this?” she asked, sitting up and piling two pillows behind her back.

Without saying a word, he took the top off the box, pulled out a pair of shoes, and tossed them on the floor. Underneath was a diary with the words ITALIAN TRIP written in his mother’s neat print.

“My father was a chemical engineer who consulted with pharmaceutical companies all around the world. He made a lot of enemies and I’m sure one of them was behind the car crash that killed them. So was my brother. Ten long years, we’ve never been able to find the link.”

He removed the diary and showed her the cover.

“Mom was a historian. She loved to go with him and make these diaries of her trips.”

“This is incredible,” Angela said, wrapping an arm around his shoulder and pulling him closer.

“This one was in my brother’s briefcase the night he was shot. Detective Greene gave it to me a few weeks later.”

“Why did he have this with him?”

“I don’t know. Just like I don’t know why Michael was going there. Or why my mother went there. I’ve always assumed it was to do some research while my father was having meetings in Rome.”

“Let’s look,” she said.

On the first page his mother had taped a photo of the Colosseum and written ROME above it. He kept turning the pages. On each one was a different picture of the ancient city with detailed notes.

He turned past a photo of the train station in Rome and on to pictures of towns along the route, clearly taken from a train window: Baiano, Spoleto, Campello, Trevi, Foligno, Nocera, Gualdo.

“Why were you hiding this in a shoebox?” she asked as the pages flashed by like an old-fashioned picture flip-book.

“I think I was hiding it from myself,” he whispered.

The train station photos ended. Next came a picture of a bus, then photos of the countryside, then a picture of a medieval hill town with the sign in front of it in large letters: GUBBIO.

“Oh, Daniel,” she sighed, her fingers tightening around his shoulder.

He was only a quarter of the way through the diary.

“If I decide to go to Italy, this will be my guidebook,” he said, beginning to turn through the Gubbio pages. “I’ll follow in my mother’s footsteps the way my brother wanted to.”

About The Author

(c) Ted Feld Photography

Robert Rotenberg is the author of several bestselling novels, including Old City Hall, The Guilty Plea, Stray Bullets, Stranglehold, Heart of the City, Downfall, and What We Buried. He is a criminal lawyer in Toronto with his firm Rotenberg Shidlowski Jesin. He is also a television screenwriter and a writing teacher. Visit him at RobertRotenberg.com or follow him on X @RobertRotenberg.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 27, 2024)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982179649

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Raves and Reviews

“For the first time, author Robert Rotenberg leaves his native Toronto for an ancient Italian town with a truly terrifying past to dig into three unsolved murders. The suspense starts on page one of What We Buried and never lets up.”
BONNIE FULLER, award-winning journalist and former editor in chief of Glamour, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, HollywoodLife, USWeekly, and Flare

“With unflinching empathy, [Rotenberg] masterfully uncoils the strands of two mysteries as his detective heroes unearth devastating secrets that span continents and generations.”
BARBARA KYLE, author of The Deadly Trade

“This gripping crime story in the Ari Greene series takes readers from Toronto to the quaint cafes and landscapes of Italy. All the elements that have made Rotenberg’s previous novels so successful are here: an intricate plot, captivating characters, excellent dialogue, and descriptions that perfectly capture the scene…[A] compelling tale of generational tragedy.”
SCOTT COREY, author of Elephants in Paris

“Well worth the wait. What We Buried takes us on a deep and complicated journey, solving puzzles that have mystified Rotenberg’s characters and readers throughout his engaging series…Sharp and masterfully written, this is storytelling at its best.”
DAVID ISRAELSON, journalist and author

“Unpunished war crimes lead to new murders generations later in Robert Rotenberg’s well-written and cinematic new novel.”
HELLA ROTTENBERG, journalist and co-author of The Cigar Factory of Isay Rottenberg

“A treat for longtime readers of Rotenberg’s mystery series, and a wonderful entry point for newcomers, What We Buried explores the intergenerational trauma of war that lies beneath the surface of modern life. A layered and propulsive thriller.”
KATE HILTON, author of Better Luck Next Time

“At the heart of this fast-paced thriller, there is a dark mystery that has festered for seventy years - a mystery that links unsolved murders in today’s world with a Nazi atrocity in a small town in wartime Italy. It is left to Daniel Kennicott to find the connection before it destroys him.”
ANNA PORTER, bestselling author of Gull Island

“Rotenberg has earned a name for himself with legal thrillers that deftly ramp up the suspense. In the same vein, What We Buried keeps us guessing but this time against a backdrop that is darker and more personal. A guaranteed great read.”
D.J. McINTOSH, bestselling author of The Witch of Babylon

“A rare treat. A thriller with depth and resonance that reaches back into the shadowy past to excavate a Nazi atrocity and expose a contemporary crime.”
DANIEL KALLA, bestselling author Fit to Die and The Darkness in the Light

What We Buried is a gripping story with fascinating historical facts that had me speed reading to the end. Can’t wait for the next one.”
NANCY LAM, author of The Loyal Daughter

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