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.



An Aurelio Zen mystery by Michael Dibdin

Zen is sent from Rome to investigate a case in Sardinia in this second novel of the series.

It is not the picture postcard Sardinia popular with tourists that awaits him but an inhospitable, desolate, deprived landscape where there is no one to help him when his own life is at risk.

Zen has been sent to look into the violent killings of a rich businessman and his house guests staying in a remote villa on the island.

As well as the suspects in the case and the unfriendly locals, he also has to contend with his enemies within Criminalpol, sinister figures from the murky world of politics, criminals from his past cases and the jealous husband of a woman he has become involved with.

We learn more about the character of the detective from Venice, whom Dibdin describes as having prominent bones in his face and a slight tautness of the skin, especially around the eyes, which gives him a slightly exotic air probably due to Slav or Semitic blood in his family’s past.

This is the face that has made Zen’s reputation as an interrogator. ‘Where other policemen confronted criminals, using the carrot or the stick, according to the situation, Zen’s subjects found themselves shut up with a man who barely seemed to exist, yet who mirrored back to them the innermost secrets of their hearts. They read their every fleeting emotion accurately imaged on those scrupulously blank features, and knew that they were lost.’
Zen needs all his intuition, resourcefulness and courage to help him solve this case and get back from Sardinia alive.

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The Terracotta Dog

An Inspector Montalbano mystery by Andrea Camilleri

Montalbano suffers a serious gunshot wound after arresting a mafia boss and discovering a cache of weapons in this second novel in the series.

He is officially off duty injured for part of the story, which enables him to indulge his curiosity and investigate a crime committed more than 50 years before involving the murder of two young lovers, whose bodies he discovers being guarded by a terracotta dog in a hidden cave.

Montalbano's character is further developed by the author and we see how his intuition and passion help him arrive at the truth in this case. We also see him empathise with older Sicilian people, whose memories he relies on to help him solve the crime. 

The detective enjoys plenty of Sicilian speciality dishes during the novel, which the reader gets to savour second hand. The novel also provides an engaging  take on Sicilian small-town life, while telling a story that is both entertaining and gripping. 

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Death of an Englishman

The first Marshal Guarnaccia novel by Magdalen Nabb

Florence in the run up to Christmas is skilfully presented to us by Magdalen Nabb as the setting for this novel. 

She doesn't just portray the famous city crammed full of art treasures that is so popular with  tourists, but instead gives an insider's view of what it is like to live in an apartment in one of the big old palaces, either as an ex-pat Brit or a working Italian.

She lets us see the city from an interesting variety of viewpoints. There is the Carabinieri officer, Marshal Guarnaccia, a Sicilian who is homesick for his island and misses his wife and family. We also see Florence through the eyes of two English detectives who have arrived to work alongside the Carabinieri on the investigation and we get an insight into the thoughts of the new recruit, the Florentine officer, Carabiniere Bacci.

The novel starts with the discovery of the body of an elderly Englishman in his ground floor apartment. Despite the circumstances in which he seems to have been living, he turns out to be well-connected and from an upper class background.

The Marshal is ill in bed with the flu and his junior officer, Bacci, has to work under his direction while also acting as an interpreter for the Carabinieri captain with the English detectives.  But it is the Sicilian marshal who shows the deepest understanding of the personalities involved and uncovers the shocking truth.

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(Image by djedj from Pixabay)     


Death at La Fenice

The first Commissario Guido Brunetti story by Donna Leon

Donna Leon chose Venice’s world famous opera house, La Fenice, to be the main location for her first novel featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti.

The theatre was named La Fenice, the Phoenix, when it was built in the 1790s, to reflect its role in permitting an opera company to rise from the ashes after its previous theatre burnt down and it had become embroiled in a legal dispute.

But disaster struck in 1836 when La Fenice itself was destroyed by fire. However, it was quickly rebuilt and opened its doors again in 1837.

Approximately four years after Donna Leon’s first novel was published, La Fenice burnt down again in 1996, making the theatre front page news all over the world. It was rebuilt in the same style at a cost of more than 90 million euros and reopened seven years later.

A lot of Donna Leon’s first Brunetti novel takes place within the walls of the beautiful 19th century theatre that she would have visited during her early years in Venice.

The book centres on the horrific poisoning of a world famous conductor during a performance of La Traviata. It is a cleverly constructed plot and the novel shows Brunetti’s character developing, as he attempts to bring about justice for everyone involved.

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