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.


At the Lake of Sudden Death

An Achille Peroni mystery by Timothy Holme


Commissario Achille Peroni is captivated by a red-haired English girl who takes him sailing while he is on holiday at a resort on Lake Garda.

When her dead body is found floating in the lake it is assumed by the local police that she had an accident while out in her boat.

The old harbour at Desenzano del Garda - at the end
of the lake where the action in the book takes place
But Peroni, who by now has become emotionally involved with the dead girl, remembers how well she handled her boat when she took him out and refuses to be convinced.

He starts his own unofficial inquiries and finds himself retracing the English girl’s steps. She had been trying to find the hiding place in the lake of Mussolini’s legendary gold.

The Rudolf Valentino of the Italian police puts himself at risk by meeting up with the families of old Fascist supporters of Mussolini and allowing himself to be taken below the waters of the lake by under water explorers in attempts to find out the truth.

It is a well-written, gripping novel and has a twist in the tail.

Sadly, it was to be the fifth and final Peroni case from the masterly pen of Timothy Holme.

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Dead Lagoon

An Aurelio Zen mystery by Michael Dibdin

Returning to his native Venice to work on a case proves to be an emotional experience for Zen.

He moves into his old family home, which has been left empty for years, but finds it disturbing to meet up with former friends and neighbours and confront his past. The cold weather and the bleakness of the old house echo his mood. 

He is haunted by memories of his father, who disappeared while fighting in Russia during the war, but is still remembered and spoken about by an old man living nearby.

Zen is unofficially working on the disappearance of a rich American who had taken up residence in Venice, but to provide himself with a cover story and a plausible reason for being there, he takes it upon himself to look into complaints made by an elderly Venetian aristocrat that her palazzo is continually being broken into by people trying to frighten her.

He finds romance with the attractive daughter of one of his mother’s old friends, which helps to make his life more bearable as he goes about his business in a city whose every canal, alleyway and bridge he can remember intimately, despite having been away for so long.

While telling the story, Dibdin takes the reader on a very special tour of Venice, demonstrating his own deep knowledge and appreciation of the city.

As usual Zen has to put himself at risk and work outside the law and without the help of the police service to try to bring the true criminals and wrongdoers to justice at the end of a story that is both well told and gripping.

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The Gondola Scam

A Lovejoy narrative by Jonathan Gash

Antiques dealer Lovejoy travels to Venice in this novel in a bid to find out who committed a robbery that resulted in the deaths of two of his colleagues.

Renowned as a divvie, someone with unerring instincts who can tell the difference between a fake and a genuine antique, Lovejoy has been asked to work for a rich man trying to bring some of the priceless works of art out of the city.

But preferring to pursue his own lines of enquiry he travels independently to La Serenissima, the most serene republic, and attaches himself to a tour group.

He meets, and is distracted by, a succession of attractive women and he enjoys playing the tourist, appreciating the beauty that is everywhere in Venice.

He ends up being employed as a forger so that he can find out more about the criminal activities of the ruthless people involved in the scam, putting himself in danger.

It is a very readable book with a mystery at its heart that keeps you turning the pages.
Jonathan Gash also reveals a deep knowledge of and love for Venice, which he describes very well.

The Gondola Scam is a good book for anyone interested in works of art and Venice, written with humour, featuring believable characters, and set in the world of antiques dealing.


Inspector Cataldo’s Criminal Summer

By Luigi Guicciardi 

The apparent suicide of an academic brings Inspector Cataldo to a quiet holiday town in the Apennines during a particularly hot summer.

Suspecting murder, he questions the dead man’s wife and friends and discovers a common link between them all with a graduation dinner held in the past. And he finds that a mysterious stranger has arrived in the town and has shaken up the delicate social balance of a group of people who have a lot to hide. 

Soon there is another death and the Inspector becomes desperate to uncover the motive behind the killings to prevent the murderer striking again. Suffering in the hot conditions, Inspector Cataldo becomes nostalgic for his native Sicily and remembers a past love and romantic disappointment while he strives to solve the case.

Translated from the Italian by Iain Halliday, this novel was originally published in Italy as La Calda Estate del Commissario Cataldo. 

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Death in Autumn

A Marshal Guarnaccia investigation by Magdalen Nabb

Marshal Guarnaccia’s instincts come to be heavily relied upon by his Carabinieri captain during a difficult investigation into the murder of a lonely German woman living in Florence.

The woman’s body had been found floating in the River Arno clad only in a fur coat and jewellery.
The Marshal’s big, slightly protuding eyes notice everything and he soon works out who is lying to him when he makes his enquiries at the hotel in he city where she had been living for the last 15 years and at the villa she owned in Greve in Chianti.

He is intrigued to find out she had become friends with the night porter at the hotel and he is also suspicious of the young people who are renting the villa from her.

The Captain is glad to follow the Marshal’s intuition in this complex case. He and his men are already stretched by an operation to track down the dealers at the centre of the drugs trade in the city that has recently led to the deaths of two young people and he is feeling pressurised by the Substitute Prosecutor to get a quick result in the murder case.

Magdalen Nabb brings the streets and squares of Florence alive in this clever, well-written mystery, which keeps the reader guessing till the end.

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The Assisi Murders

An Achille Peroni mystery by Timothy Holme

Commissario Achille Peroni is tempted by plenty of beautiful women while on a pilgrimage to Assisi but he finds himself irresistibly drawn to a lady who had lived in the city during the 13th century.

When one of his fellow pilgrims is arrested on a charge of shooting her lover, Peroni takes it upon himself to conduct an investigation completely independent of the police officers assigned to the case from Perugia.

But his enquiries uncover a 13th century mystery involving a woman who had been a confidante of St Francis of Assisi himself.

Timothy Holme skilfully blends Peroni’s investigations into the present day murder with his fascinating journey into the past intrigues of medieval Assisi, which are revealed in the letters the Commissario discovers written by St Francis’s close female friend, the fascinating Jacopa de Settesoli.

He is ably assisted in the investigation by an eccentric English woman crime writer living in Assisi, Dame Iolanthe Higgins, a well-drawn character who adds humour and colour to the story.

As ever, Timothy Holme serves up an intriguing mystery that is also amusing and entertaining for his readers.

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An Aurelio Zen mystery by Michael Dibdin

Michael Dibdin’s third Zen novel is set in Rome and begins with the death of a man inside the Basilica of Saint Peter during Mass.

A body plummets to the ground from high up in the great dome of the church and ends up on the marble floor in front of all of the worshippers.

Zen is asked to investigate the circumstances by the Vatican to ensure they are seen to be open and fair and are not just accepting the convenient theory that the man was committing suicide.

But getting the answers he needs isn’t easy after one witness after another is silenced before he can talk to them by violent death.

Knowing himself to be under threat, Zen has to penetrate a sinister, secret organisation known as the Cabal in order to save his own skin and put an end to the killings.

Dibdin starts the book in Rome and then Zen travels by train to Milan and you can tell you are in a different city when he gets off the train, that’s how good his settings are.

He puts in details about contemporary life in Rome in that period, including the disruption caused by extending the metro, that make the reader feel they are living through it with Zen.

Towards the end of the book a lot of the action takes place in the Galleria in Milan and his sharp observations about the architecture, shops and restaurants makes you feel you are living in that period in the city.

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Death in the High City first anniversary


Successful year for Bergamo’s first English crime novel

Death in the High City, the first British detective novel to be set in Bergamo, has had an exciting first year.

The novel, which was published in Kindle format on Amazon 12 months ago today, has sold copies in the UK, Italy, America, Australia and Canada . A paperback version of Death in the High City was published in July 2014.

The novel in Piazza Vecchia
Author Val Culley has had some heart warming emails and messages about the book from readers both in the UK and abroad and has been delighted with the level of interest in her first novel.

In October 2014 Val was a guest at the fifth anniversary celebrations of Bergamo Su e Giù a group of independent tour guides in the city. She was invited to present Death in the High City to an audience in San Pellegrino Terme and sign copies of the book and she also made an appearance on Bergamo TV to talk about the novel with presenter Teo Mangione.

In November the book was purchased by Leicestershire Libraries and is now in stock at Loughborough, Shepshed, Ashby de la Zouch, Coalville, Castle Donington and Kegworth Libraries and is going out on loan regularly. In April this year Val was invited to Bergamo again to present her novel to a group of 80 Italian teachers of English and to sign copies. She made a second appearance on Bergamo TV and also formally presented a copy of Death in the High City to the Biblioteca Civica (Civic Library) in Piazza Vecchia, a location that is featured in the novel itself.

Death in the High City centres on the investigation into the death of an English woman who was staying in the Città Alta while writing a biography of the composer Gaetano Donizetti.

The novel is the first of a series to feature the characters of Kate Butler, a freelance journalist, and Steve Bartorelli, a Detective Chief Inspector, who is of partly Italian descent and has just retired from the English police.

Val signing copies of her book in Bergamo
The victim had been living in an apartment in Bergamo’s Città Alta and much of the action takes place within the walls of the upper town. The local police do not believe there is enough evidence to open a murder enquiry and so Kate Butler, who is the victim’s cousin, arrives in Bergamo to try to get some answers about her 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 death in the Città Alta, her lover, Steve Bartorelli, joins her to help unravel the mystery and trap the killer. The reader is able to go along for the ride and enjoy Bergamo ’s wonderful architecture and scenery while savouring the many descriptions in the novel of local food and wine.

The novel will be of interest to anyone who enjoys the ‘cosy’ crime fiction genre or likes detective novels with an Italian setting.

Death in the High City by Val Culley is available from



A Venetian Reckoning

A Commissario Brunetti novel by Donna Leon

In A Venetian Reckoning we discover that Brunetti lives near the church of San Polo
In A Venetian Reckoning we discover that
Brunetti lives near the church of San Polo
Brunetti starts to investigate the murder of a prominent international lawyer on a train and soon finds himself uncovering a frightening network of corruption in Venice and further afield.

His enquiries into the secret lives of some of the top people in his home city lead to repercussions for both himself and his family, but he refuses to allow himself to be deterred from uncovering the truth.

We learn more about his domestic life in this fourth novel of the series and discover that his apartment is in Calle Tiepolo near the church of San Polo. At one point he sends his daughter, Chiara, out to buy some of his favourite Dolcetto wine from a nearby restaurant, Do Mori, demonstrating Donna Leon’s attention to detail, which helps to bring her characters and the city of Venice to life for the reader.

Brunetti discovers that a seedy bar is at the hub of an evil crime network involving the exploitation of women, from which rich, seemingly respectable people, are profiting.

But as ever there is a twist in the story leading to a poignant end to the book.

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When in Rome

A Roderick Alleyn mystery


By Ngaio Marsh (1899 – 1982)

A brilliant portrait of Rome during the swinging sixties is painted by Dame Ngaio Marsh in this novel, which was first published in 1970.

The handsome and astute Superintendent Alleyn is in Rome ‘incognito’, trying to gather information about the international drugs trade.

Posing as a tourist, he joins a very select guided tour for the day to visit a church and enjoy a picnic at the Palatine Hill.

The tour organiser, or ‘cicerone’ as he is referred to in the book, mysteriously disappears while escorting the wealthy and aristocratic members of the party inside the Basilica of San Tommaso in Pallaria. Alleyn, working with the Italian Polizia, eventually discovers a body in the Basilica.

Much of the action takes place inside the church, which the author describes in great detail, showing a fine appreciation of place. And, while enjoying the many excellent descriptions of the eternal city, the reader is kept guessing, with twists and turns of the plot right until the end of the book, about the identity of the murderer.

New Zealand-born Ngaio Marsh wrote 32 novels featuring Roderick Alleyn, a gentleman detective who worked for the Metropolitan Police in London. They were published between 1934 and 1982. Dame Ngaio Marsh has been ranked as one of the four Queens of Crime of the 20th century, alongside Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and Margery Allingham.

When in Rome is currently available in paperback as part of The Ngaio Marsh Collection Book 9 (Harper), alongside Clutch of Constables and Tied Up in Tinsel, and as an eBook.  It is due to be re-released as a paperback in its own right by Felony and Mayhem in September.

(Image by neufal54 from Pixabay)

Buy the Kindle edition of When In Rome from Amazon.

Also available as part of The Ngaio March Collection, Book 9, available from 


The Big Story

By Morris West 

Piazza Sant'Antonino in Sorrento, where the action in Morris West's story takes place
Piazza Sant'Antonino in Sorrento, where the
action in Morris West's story takes place
This book by bestselling Australian novelist and playwright Morris West is not a conventional detective story but the setting is Sorrento in southern Italy and there is a ‘whodunnit’ element to the plot.

Written in 1957, the novel features as its main protagonist an American journalist, Richard Ashley, who has been working on an exposure of graft in Italy's rich and powerful ruling clique that he hopes will make headlines all over the world.

At the centre of the corruption is the rich and powerful Vittorio, Duke of Orgagna and an added complication is that Ashley once had an affair with his wife, Cosima, and deep down he is still in love with her.

The Duke has to prevent Ashley’s story from being published as it would ruin his political ambitions and he arranges for the journalist to be framed for murder.

The mystery for the reader is who actually committed the murder and who will emerge the winner at the end, the journalist or the Duke.

For those who love Sorrento the book - later retitled as The Crooked Road and made into a film starring Stewart Granger - is interesting as it depicts the glamour of the resort 60 years ago when it was popular with the rich and famous.

And all credit to Morris West, the story reaches a tense climax with an unexpected twist at the end.

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The Anonymous Venetian

A Commissario Brunetti mystery by Donna Leon

When the body of a man dressed as a woman is found dead in a field in Mestre, Brunetti is called in to investigate because of summer holiday staff shortages.

Sending his family away to the cooler air of the mountains, Brunetti remains in the heat of Venice to try to identify the victim and find his killer.

His perseverance leads him to uncover an elaborate plot, seeming to involve respectable people in high places in Venetian society. But lack of proof means his superiors will not bring a case against those he believes to be guilty.

Fortunately his attention to detail in continuing to follow up on an early clue brings about the downfall of the evil people responsible for a string of killings.

This is a gripping novel that keeps the reader turning the pages right to the end.

(Image by Pascvii from Pixabay)
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Death in Springtime

A Marshal Guarnaccia mystery by Magdalen Nabb


Magdalen Nabb's story begins in late winter in Marshal Guarnaccia's home city of Florence
Magdalen Nabb's story begins in late winter in
Marshal Guarnaccia's home city of Florence
When a wealthy American student is kidnapped in Florence with one of her college friends, the Carabinieri move swiftly to try to find her before she comes to any harm.

English-speaking Lieutenant Bacci tries to win the confidence of the girl’s friend after she is released by the kidnappers and found wandering in the countryside.

And Captain Maestrangelo and a new Substitute Prosecutor organise a massive operation to search the part of the Tuscan hills where the confused girl was discovered.

But it is Marshal Guarnaccia’s enquiries on his own patch near Palazzo Pitti, the area of the city where the American girl had been staying, that yield the clues that eventually lead to the kidnappers.

Magdalen Nabb tells the story cleverly, paving the way towards an outcome that is completely unexpected.

The story begins on the first of March with snow falling in Florence, which provides a big distraction for the local people at the time the young women are kidnapped.

And Death in Springtime ends with such a surprise that it will give the reader something to think about long after they have finished the last page.

(Image by Mark Gilder from Pixabay)

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River of Shadows

A Commissario Soneri Investigation by Valerio Varesi

The landscape of the River Po features strongly in River of Shadows
The landscape of the River Po features
strongly in River of Shadows
This is a novel where the setting can truly said to be the main character in the story.

Much of the action takes place along the banks of the River Po, at a point on the waterway that is an equal distance between the cities of Cremona and Parma.

Commissario Soneri finds himself drawn to the cold, foggy landscape, where incessant rain has made the waters rise to dangerous heights. He is trying to solve a mystery concerning two brothers, now old men, who were both known to be fascists in the past. One has been found dead, apparently having fallen from a window at a hospital in Parma and the other has gone missing, believed to have been out on the river on his barge in the bad weather.

Soneri spends a lot of time musing over clues in the warmth of restaurants while he samples the local food and wine. He is also distracted by having to please his girlfriend, Angela, an unpredictable avvocatessa - lawyer - who turns up at inconvenient moments during the book.

He talks to the old people determined to live their lives and earn their living in this inhospitable landscape. He finds it is a community where people are still divided from each other by the events of the Second World War that took place in the area. He is constantly being told that the River Po both 'gives and takes' and that when the waters fall again, all will be revealed.

Despite opposition from his superiors who want him back in Parma, Soneri remains convinced that the answers lie with the river and he is determined to follow his instincts and continue investigating until he has got to the bottom of the mystery and tracked down who is responsible.

River of Shadows is a compelling story, well translated into English by Joseph Farrell, and the novel is rich in atmosphere and full of local, background detail.

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(Picture by mdall olio0 from Pixabay)