A good detective story taking place in a beautiful part of Italy is a real treat for people who enjoy reading crime mysteries and also happen to love Italy. Use this website to find out more about the locations, the lifestyle and the food and the wine experienced by the characters created by your favourite authors.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

A Noble Radiance

A Commissario Brunetti novel by Donna Leon

When workmen discover a badly decomposed body in a macabre grave in the gardens of a deserted farmhouse in the Dolomites, Commissario Guido Brunetti is called in to look into the case.

The victim is conclusively identified as the son of an aristocratic Venetian family who has been missing since his abduction two years previously.
Donna Leon exposes the corruption that lies behind
 the stunning beauty of Venice.

Brunetti goes to the family’s villa to try to find out more about the background of the victim and immediately notices a small detail about the gates that had been overlooked by the officers who had investigated the kidnapping at the time.

In this seventh novel to feature Commissario Guido Brunetti, Donna Leon gives us an intriguing mystery that is set against the backdrop of a glamorous, but corrupt Venice. 

Brunetti has to tread carefully because the important family are still grieving for their abducted son, but he is determined to uncover the truth and give the victim the justice he deserves.

Readers are treated to interesting details about Venice and the culinary delights of the city that are enjoyed by the Brunetti family along the way, by the author, who is a long term resident of the city.

But the grim truth uncovered by Brunetti in the closing pages stops this novel from becoming just another predictable crime story that takes place in a beautiful setting.

Buy A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon.

Friday, January 4, 2019

A Long Finish

An Aurelio Zen Mystery by Michael Dibdin

Zen is given an assignment he can’t possibly refuse when he is sent to the wine producing town of Alba in Piedmont in northern Italy.

He has been sent to try to get the son of a wine producer released from prison, following orders instigated by an influential and wealthy man in Rome, who is a passionate wine collector.

He can’t turn down the job because it has been made clear to him the alternative would be a posting to Sicily. He would be drafted into the elite squad of officers chosen to spearhead a campaign against the Mafia and this time the Government is planning a fight to the finish against the organisation.

However, all Zen has to do if he goes to Alba is to secure the release from prison of a man accused of murdering his father, in time for him to make this year’s wine.

The UK television adaptations of the Aurelio Zen novels starred the actor Rufus Sewell
The UK television adaptations of the Aurelio Zen
novels starred the actor Rufus Sewell
Some people believe Manlio Vincenzo has been wrongly accused of murdering  Aldo Vincenzo, but he had a row with his father the night before he was killed and the Carabinieri have quickly arrested him.

The Vincenzo Barbaresco DOC is known to be the best in the region and if Manlio Vincenzo is let out in time he will be able to make this year’s vintage, which is predicted could be the wine of the century and would be highly collectable.

It is not long after Zen’s arrival in Alba that Manlio is released anyway and the local Polizia Vice-Questore thinks that will be the end of the assignment for the officer from Rome. But Zen is in no hurry to leave Alba because he is fully aware of what is planned for him next.

Large wine barrels form part of a display in Piazza Duomo, one of the main squares in Alba's historic centre
Large wine barrels form part of a display in Piazza Duomo,
one of the main squares in Alba's historic centre
The subsequent deaths of a local truffle hunter and another less important wine producer provide him with clues and using his unique, investigative skills, Zen ferrets out the old relationships among the locals and the grudges still harboured that lie at the heart of the mystery.

The story, skilfully told by Dibdin, continues even after Zen believes he has arrived at the truth as, like the famous Barbaresco wine, the case has A Long Finish.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Excursion to Tindari

An Inspector Montalbano Mystery by Andrea Camilleri

The TV version of the Montalbano mysteries uses locations such as Pozzalo (above), on the Sicilian coast near Ragusa
The TV version of the Montalbano mysteries uses locations
such as Pozzalo (above), on the Sicilian coast near Ragusa
Inspector Montalbano is called in to investigate when a young man is murdered in front of his apartment building just as he was about to put his key into the lock of the entrance door.

What seems a routine investigation suddenly becomes more interesting when an elderly couple are reported missing by their son and Montalbano discovers they lived in the same apartment building as the murder victim.

Against a backdrop of the complications of life at Vigata police station and the difficulties he encounters in his own personal life, Montalbano uncovers a brutal new version of the Mafia that has sprung up in Sicily.

The elderly couple had travelled by bus on an excursion to a place called Tindari, but were fated never to return from their trip.

Montalbano finds himself being led down a path more evil than any path he has been down before.

But there is no shortage of visits to authentic trattorie where the Inspector finds the seafood particularly good. Once again Camilleri produces the style of writing that brings the smells, colours and landscapes of Sicily to life for the reader.

Buy Excursion to Tindari by Andrea Camilleri.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Marshal and the Madwoman

A Marshal Guarnaccia Investigation by Magdalen Nabb

Magdalen Nabb's Marshall Guarnaccia novels are set in the city of Florence
Magdalen Nabb's Marshal Guarnaccia novels are set
in the city of Florence
When a crazy, destitute old woman is found dead in her apartment with her head in the gas oven, the Marshal isn’t prepared immediately to accept that she committed suicide.

His instincts tell him that the woman has been murdered and he sets out in the August heat in Florence to investigate her death thoroughly.

But his enquiries only lead to him asking himself: why would anyone want to murder Clementina, a poor old woman who was obsessed with tidying and cleaning the streets of the district of Florence where she lived?

Nothing at all is known about her by the other residents living nearby and so the Marshal has to try to reconstruct her past.

Only when he discovers the terrible event that wrecked her life and led to her madness 25 years earlier during the big flood that engulfed Florence, the story of which is vividly recreated in the novel by Magdalen Nabb, does he discover the identity of her present day murderer.

Marshal Guarnaccia then has to use all his ingenuity and resources to track down the culprit and make sure that they don’t get away with it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Death of Faith

A Commissario Brunetti novel by Donna Leon

Commissario Guido Brunetti offers to make some enquiries about unexpected deaths at a care home in Venice after he is visited at his office by a former nun.
Beguiling Venice, where dark secrets can lurk

Maria Testa, who was known as Suor Immacolata when she used to care for Brunetti's aged mother, believes everything is not what it should be at the home she used to work in.

Having now relinquished her vocation, she is living her life in the outside world again, but remains so troubled by what she has witnessed that she asks for Brunetti's help.

He sets out to make his enquiries having complete faith in Maria's honesty and sincerity, but finds no obvious cause for concern.  

Is Maria simply creating a problem to justify abandoning her vows? Or, has she stumbled on to something deeply-rooted and sinister that will put her own life in danger?

As usual Brunetti finds himself working in an imperfect system and has to use his own skills and ingenuity to  eventually bring the wrongdoers to justice.

This is another tale by Donna Leon where the reader can enjoy her descriptions of the beauty of Venice while simultaneously being shocked by the corruption lying beneath the surface that she reveals.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Death in the High City

A Butler and Bartorelli mystery by Val Culley

In this first book in the Butler and Bartorelli series, journalist Kate Butler has travelled to Bergamo in northern Italy to investigate the circumstances of the sudden death of her cousin.

Bergamo's beautiful Piazza Vecchia
Bergamo's beautiful Piazza Vecchia
The dead woman, Sophie Westmullen, had been staying in the Città Alta while researching and writing a biography of the composer Gaetano Donizetti.

The novel, which was published in 2014, is the first in a series featuring the characters of Kate Butler, a freelance journalist, and her partner Steve Bartorelli, who has just retired from the police force he has served for 30 years, having reached the rank of Detective Chief Inspector.

Sophie had been living in an apartment in Bergamo’s Città Alta and much of the action in the novel takes place within the 16th century walls surrounding the high city. Although her death looks suspicious at first, the local police do not believe there is enough evidence for them to open a murder enquiry and so Kate Butler tries to get some answers about her cousin's death.

Kate visits many of the places in the city with Donizetti connections and her enquiries even take her out to Lago d’Iseo and into the countryside around San Pellegrino Terme. But after her own life is threatened and there has been another mysterious death in the Città Alta, her partner, Steve Bartorelli, joins her in Bergamo to help her unravel the mystery and trap the person responsible for the deaths.

The book enables the reader to go along with the investigators for the ride and enjoy Bergamo’s architecture and scenery while savouring the many descriptions of local food and wine.

It has been written in a style designed to appeal to anyone who enjoys the ‘cosy’ crime fiction genre in English literature and the setting has been used to appeal to readers who enjoy detective novels set in Italy.

The novel puts the spotlight on many of Bergamo’s main attractions, such as Piazza Vecchia, with the Campanone, the Palazzo della Ragione and the Biblioteca Civica. The plot of the novel particularly features the church of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Donizetti Museum.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Così fan tutti

An Aurelio Zen mystery by Michael Dibdin

In this fifth book of the Aurelio Zen series, the detective has been sent off in disgrace to work in Naples. 

He takes a liking to the chaotic, southern Italian city and resolves to enjoy himself and do as little work as possible.

The novel cleverly mimics the plot of Mozart’s opera Così fan tutte, the title of which is literally translated, referring to women, as "Thus do they all" , and colloquially as “They're all like that” or “All women behave the same”.

While Zen tries to keep a low profile in his role at the police station at the port, some sinister forces are at work in Naples, trying to clean up the city by removing corrupt politicians, top mafia bosses and dodgy businessmen from circulation.

The operation named Strade Pulite, clean streets, involves literally carting them away in a rogue refuse truck.

A chance meeting with a woman ends up with Zen embroiled in a plot to disentangle her daughters from the clutches of two young men she thinks are not worthy of them.

Naples is the setting for Michael Dibdin's book
Naples is the setting for Michael Dibdin's book
Here is where the plot of the novel begins to resemble the opera of almost the same name. Where the opera puts two young women to the test, the novel does the same to the two young men, hence it is called Così fan tutti, with a masculine ending.

Filling the role of Don Alfonso in the opera is Aurelio Zen. He has a bet with the two young women that their lovers will not stay faithful to them while they are away studying in London.

In the opera,the two men are sent away to war and the two women left behind are put to the test. 

In the book two beautiful Albanian women are brought in to try to tempt the two young men. In the opera it is the two men who have supposedly gone away to war who come back to test their women, disguised as two Albanians.

At the same time Zen is rather unwillingly trying to solve a crime that has been made the responsibility of the port police, while simultaneously trying to deal with his personal problems, which involve his mother, his ex-wife and his ex-girlfriend.

As happens in the opera, the denouement scene sees all the ends neatly tied up, thanks to the expert handling of the story by Dibdin, who springs a few surprises on the reader at the end.