Niccolo' Ammanniti

It is the heatwave summer of 1978, still remembered in Italy for its ferocity and duration. While the dozen adults in Aqua Traverse - a cluster of houses lost somewhere in the south of the peninsula - spend most of the day prostrate indoors, the children set off on their bikes to explore the countryside.  To spare the fat girl who tags along a humiliating forfeit, nine-year-old Michele volunteers to explore an abandoned farmhouse in a remote location at the very edge of the gang's territory. There he makes a mysterious and terrifying discovery that he instinctively decides to keep to himself. He later tries to tell his father, but he doesn't want to know. Indeed, the adults in this isolated community all seem to be unusually preoccupied and tense.  Then, without any explanation, a sinister and powerful stranger comes to stay. The long, stuffy nights are punctuated by loud quarrels among the grown-ups downstairs. Before long, the reader has unravelled the meaning of Michele's discovery, but he himself never does, although he must and does take full responsibility for it.

The success of the novel lies in a very well-crafted narration, with increasing dramatic tension, and a sensational setting in the warm Italian summer. But his fascination comes from two very suggestive aspects: the friendship between children and the desire to overcome evil with good.