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.

Friday, November 27, 2020

A Sea of Troubles

A Commissario Brunetti novel by Donna Leon

After a fisherman and his son are murdered and left on their boat, which is then set on fire and sunk, Commissario Brunetti has to go to the island of Pellestrina in the Venetian lagoon to investigate the crime.

But the Commissario and his Sergeant, Vianello, find themselves up against a brick wall in the close-knit community of Pellestrina, where the tough fishermen and their downtrodden wives stubbornly avoid cooperating with the police.

The lagoon can be treacherous in bad weather

The beautiful and stylish Signorina Elettra, the Vice-Questore’s secretary, reveals she has a cousin who lives on the island and volunteers to visit her for a few days to see what she can find out.

Despite his misgivings about her safety, Brunetti finds he can’t dissuade her and she takes some holiday from the Questura to go to the island.

Brunetti and Vianello continue to pursue their enquiries officially, returning to Pellestrina, which is south of the Lido out in the lagoon, in the police launch, piloted by the long-serving Bonsuan.

Meanwhile, Signorina Elettra enjoys her holiday, while maintaining her cover, but finds herself falling for a handsome stranger she is introduced to in a bar.

The atmosphere of Pellestrina, which is only a few kilometres from Venice, but where the inhabitants don’t even speaks the same dialect as the Venetians, is evoked well by Donna Leon. She displays her extensive knowledge of the island, which is just a short trip across the water from Venice, where she lives.

But the weather in this part of Italy in the spring can change quickly and as Brunetti is getting closer to the truth, a terrible storm descends, which puts them all at risk.

A Sea of Troubles won the Crime Writers’ Association Macallan Silver Dagger in 2000.

Buy A Sea of Troubles from Amazon.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

August Heat

An Inspector Montalbano Mystery by Andrea Camilleri

Montalbano has been tasked by his girlfriend, Livia, with finding a villa near his Sicilian home for her and her friends to rent during the August holiday period. He finds it impossible, with all the estate agents laughingly telling him every property was let out ages ago.

Then, by some miracle he is notified of a cancellation. A nice house by the sea with access to the beach has become available only six miles from where he lives.

Montalbano's investigation gives him chance to
 cool off in the sea during the heat of August

But after Livia and her friends, a married couple with a young child, arrive, there is one disaster after another. They have to deal with invasions of cockroaches, rodents and spiders before they can settle down and enjoy their holiday.

After the couple’s young son goes missing, Livia calls in Montalbano to investigate. He discovers the child has fallen down a hole in the garden and accidentally discovered a hidden basement where he is trapped.

After the little boy has been rescued, Montalbano notices an old trunk in the basement and when he opens it, makes a grim discovery.

It is the final straw for the family and they leave with Livia, all blaming the whole fiasco on the hapless Montalbano.

The inspector launches an investigation after his discovery, with the assistance of two of his officers, the diligent Fazio and the comical Catarella.

But he is hampered by the scorching Sicilian weather making it difficult to work and also becomes distracted by his feelings for a beautiful, young blonde girl who is involved in the case.

Montalbano is kept going by taking long swims in the sea and making frequent visits to his favourite trattoria . He also enjoys the wonderful Sicilian delicacies prepared for him by his housekeeper, Adelina, such as pappanozza, boiled onions and potatoes mashed and served cold seasoned with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and purpiteddri, baby octopus in a sauce of tomatoes and olives.

Using his unorthodox sleuthing tactics and brilliant flashes of intuition he solves the case, achieving a Montalbano style of justice at the end.

Buy August Heat, by Andrea Camilleri

Friday, October 30, 2020

And Then You Die

An Aurelio Zen Mystery by Michael Dibdin

(Italian beach view by Hermann via Pixabay)
(Italian beach view by Hermann via Pixabay)
Detective Aurelio Zen is recuperating at a beach resort in Tuscany after a long stay in hospital following a bomb attack on his car.

But when a man who has cheekily taken his place on his allotted sunbed on the beach is shot dead one afternoon, Zen realises that the members of the Mafia who had tried to kill him at the end of the previous book, Blood Rain, have had another go,

The authorities want him alive and well so he can testify at an anti-Mafia trial in the US so they waste no time in shipping him out of his peaceful coastal retreat. This inconveniences Zen, who under a false name has been about to embark on a romance with a lady from Lucca he has met on the beach.

Zen is taken to a remote prison island off the coast of Tuscany to lie low for a while before he is put on the plane to America.

Once on board, Zen moves to another seat to make himself more comfortable. The male passenger who decides to move into his empty seat is later found dead.

Due to technical difficulties, later discovered to be sabotage, the plane is forced to land in Iceland. Zen's adventures continue there when he is attacked by a man with a knife in a street in Reykjavik.

The reader is then taken on a roller coaster ride with Zen that takes him back to Rome, on to Florence, back to the beach resort and then to Lucca, where he is finally able to concentrate on his blossoming relationship. But has he overcome all the obstacles to his happiness?

He is constantly puzzled by a slogan in English he keeps seeing on the front of T shirts, Life's a beach. But what has that got to do with the words on the back, And then you die? Finally when Zen is on board a boat out at sea everything falls into place for both Zen and the reader.

And Then You Die is another gripping read  from Michael Dibdin with some wonderful descriptions of locations in Italy.

Buy And Then You Die, by Michael Dibdin


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Paper Moon

An Inspector Montalbano Mystery by Andrea Camilleri

(Sicilian street scene by Tama66 via Pixabay)
Montalbano has to spend time with not one, but two, beautiful women while carrying out a murder investigation and at times finds himself distracted from his duties.

The victim is a pharmaceutical salesman who was shot in the face at point blank range at a moment when his trousers were down.

One of the beautiful women is the dead man’s sister. She calls on Montalbano to investigate her brother’s disappearance and Montalbano finds himself fascinated with her eyes.

He accompanies her to her brother’s apartment and after they fail to find any trace of the missing man he reluctantly gives in to her request to break down the locked door of a small room on his terrace. Inside, Montalbano finds the body of the victim.

When he goes to see the dead man’s mistress, a blue eyed blonde in her thirties, he is stunned by her beauty and finds it hard to concentrate on the case.

While he carries out his investigation he is constantly preoccupied by the fear that he is becoming forgetful as he gets older. He even writes a letter to himself to remind him of the facts in the case.

He is assisted as always by the faithful, but hapless Catarella, who works round the clock to access files on the dead man’s computer for which he doesn’t have the password, confusing Montalbano by constantly referring to it as ‘the last word’.

Meanwhile, local  politicians are dying because of a batch of dirty cocaine that is in circulation and every day Montalbano’s appointment with the Commissioner has to be cancelled for some reason by Dr Lattes (with an s on the end) who telephones Catarella with the news.

Things are as complicated and hilarious as ever at police headquarters but a determined Montalbano gets to the truth in the end.

Buy The Paper Moon from Amazon


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Friends in High Places

A Commissario Brunetti novel by Donna Leon

This is one of my favourite Brunetti novels because of the superb plotting by Donna Leon. It is always satisfying for crime fiction fans to be able to close a book at the end and think that everything makes complete sense and the conclusion was inevitable. But it is even better if you haven’t worked it out too soon.

This novel always leads the reader in the right direction but the circumstances at the end throw up a surprise.
The Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal in Venice

Brunetti is visited by a young man working for an office in Venice investigating illegal building. He hits Brunetti with the news that his apartment, just off the Grand Canal, does not exist officially and Brunetti is unable to produce the original plans for his floor to prove the official wrong.

The young man later discovers Brunetti is a police officer and rings him from his telefonino to say he is worried about something to do with his work. Brunetti tells him he would be better speaking from a public phone, but the young man does not ring back and it comes as no surprise to the reader that his dead body is discovered soon afterwards.

Brunetti does not believe the young man died accidentally and sets out with the faithful Sergeant Vianello to discover the truth.

Donna Leon frequently exposes the less savoury side of Venetian society in her books and in this novel, both money lending and drug addiction play their parts in the plot.

But, as always, her writing highlights the beauty of Venice as well and allows the reader to enjoy it with Brunetti from far away. Food lovers can also take pleasure in reading about the delicious meals Brunetti’s wife serves up for her family, cooked with fresh ingredients bought at the food market at the foot of the Rialto Bridge.

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Patience of the Spider

An Inspector Montalbano Mystery by Andrea Camilleri

Inspector Montalbano is recovering from a gunshot wound he sustained at the end of the previous book in the series, Rounding the Mark.

The Inspector was shot in the shoulder by a man involved in trafficking very young, third world children and so he had no hesitation in taking out his own gun and shooting the despicable individual dead.

The kidnap victim had set off for a friend's house on her scooter but never arrived.
The kidnap victim had set off for a friend's
house on her scooter but never arrived.
But Montalbano's recovery from the wound is taking some time as he is feeling the weight of his years and becoming more and more introspective.

He is being looked after at his beachfront home in Marinella by his long suffering girlfriend, Livia, and keeps suffering flashbacks to his time in hospital.

However his convalescence is rudely interrupted when Catarella, one of his officers, calls him from the police station and tells him there has been a kidnapping.

The girl was a student at Palermo University and had been out in the evening to a friend’s house to study. She had left her friend to travel home on her scooter early in the evening but had never arrived.

The case just doesn’t add up in Montalbano’s opinion as the family did not have much money, so he wonders why the kidnappers would bother with this girl.

As usual his sharp mind and understanding of human nature helps him get to the truth with plenty of wry humour and a generous helping of Sicilian cuisine along the way.

Buy The Patience of the Spider from Amazon 


Sunday, June 7, 2020

Blood Rain

An Aurelio Zen Mystery by Michael Dibdin

Zen finds himself living out his worst nightmare when he is posted to Sicily, the home of the Mafia.

An unidentified, decomposed corpse has been discovered on a train in a disused railway siding near the coast to the north of Catania and Zen has been sent to investigate.
In the shadow of Etna, the city of Catania,
 where Zen has been sent

Also on the island, to install a new computer system for the police, is Carla, a woman who believes she is Zen’s daughter. Although Zen knows this is not the case he does not tell Carla because he enjoys spending time with her.

Readers must brace themselves for having to unravel some complex plotting as it is at times difficult to keep track of the different crime families involved in the story.

Zen is not just fighting the Mafia as a single organisation, he is coming up against different groups at war with each other and he ends up caught in the middle.

But the novel contains some excellent descriptions of Sicily and Sicilian people and their way of life, and everything falls into place by the end. As usual, Zen has to cope with some corruption within the police, but he finds a way to right the wrongs and set the record straight for the warring Mafia clans.

Although some of the deaths affect Zen personally, the book is also at times entertaining and amusing and a very good read.

Buy Blood Rain by Michael Dibdin