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.


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.

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Voice of the Violin

An Inspector Montalbano Mystery by Andrea Camilleri 

When Montalbano discovers the dead body of a naked woman by accident in an uninhabited villa on the edge of town, he is determined to find out why she was murdered and bring her killer to justice.

He meets up with her friend, Anna, who puts him on the trail of the victim's much older husband, who is a respected doctor, her lover, who is an antiques dealer, and the friends she has made while establishing a holiday home for herself in Sicily.

The Inspector is attracted to Anna, but he has his chaotic personal life to deal with at the same time. When he is taken off the case by the Commissioner based at police headquarters, who dislikes him, he has to investigate the case unofficially to make sure the right person is accused of the murder.

There are plenty of meals featuring Sicilian specialities for Montalbano to enjoy before the ‘voice of the violin’ helps him arrive at the truth.

It is another funny, clever mystery by Camilleri set against the colourful backdrop of Sicily .

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(Sicily picture by Peter H from Pixabay)


The Marshal and the Murderer

A Marshal Guarnaccia Investigation by Magdalen Nabb 

The Marshall is asked to investigate the disappearance of a Swiss girl staying in Florence, who has been learning pottery-making in a nearby village.

And when her body is found outside a ceramics factory in the village, the local Marshal is keen for Guarnaccia to stay and help out with the murder investigation.

The two Carabinieri officers find it frustrating that no one in the village seems to want to help them find the killer. They are met with a wall of silence and are convinced they are not being told the whole truth about the girl’s movements on the day she was murdered.

The breakthrough comes when they speak to a retired doctor about the grim events that took place in the village during the German occupation in the early 1940s.

Marshall Guarnaccia finally begins to see a pattern emerge, but puts his own life at risk when he goes to confront the murderer.

Magdalen Nabb tells the compelling story well and shows the reader life in a part of Tuscany that tourists seldom visit, drawing on her own knowledge of the ceramics industry she herself had worked in.

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(Picture of Florence by Helena Volpi from Pixabay)


The Salati Case – crime novel by Tobias Jones

First Castagnetti novel by Tobias Jones

Set in Parma in northern Italy, this novel introduces us to a private detective called Castagnetti, known to his friends as Casta.

Written in the first person, the book takes us around Parma in Emilia-Romagna as Castagnetti conducts an investigation on behalf of a notary to verify that a missing person is actually dead.

Castagnetti is a loner and has had a hard life and he doesn’t do things by the book, but once he starts on an investigation he has to see it through however much opposition he runs into. At one stage in the novel he is given a severe beating for crossing swords with the wrong person.

As the case progresses it becomes more important for Castagnetti to get justice for the missing person than to just verify his death so that an estate can be settled. Before long he is reopening wounds and exposing family secrets as he moves around a city that for most of the time is covered with a blanket of fog.

Once he has started, there is no stopping Castagnetti until he has got some kind of justice for the victim.

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(Picture of Parma by DEZALB from Pixabay)


The Jewels of Paradise – crime novel by Donna Leon

Featuring new character Caterina Pellegrini

Donna Leon captures the atmosphere of Venice in this novel, featuring a young musicologist as the main character, just as vividly as she does in her Brunetti series, making it a joy to read for anyone who loves the city.

The musicologist, Caterina Pellegrini, is a native Venetian who has been hired to find the rightful heirs to supposed treasure believed to have been hidden away by a once famous, now almost forgotten, Baroque composer.

Pleased to be back in Venice after working in Manchester, sworn to secrecy and working alone as she looks at papers found in two old trunks that once belonged to the composer, Caterina finds herself uncovering dark secrets from the past.

Her research leads her in the direction of a scandal that happened in the Baroque era that may have involved Agostino Steffani, a real-life 17th century composer.

The Biblioteca Marciana, opposite the Doge's Palace in the Piazzetta, off St Mark's Square in Venice
The Biblioteca Marciana, opposite the Doge's Palace in
the Piazzetta, off St Mark's Square in Venice
Donna Leon’s interest in Baroque opera inspired her to write this story, weaving fact with fiction as she takes an intrigue from the past and makes it the basis for two present-day avaricious Venetians thinking they are the heirs to Steffani’s legendary fortune.

As we read about Caterina doing her research at the Biblioteca Marciana (Marciana Library) in the Piazzetta and going for aperitivi and meals at bars and restaurants known only to the Venetians, we get a glimpse of the life Donna Leon herself enjoys in her beloved Venice.

The Jewels of Paradise is a fascinating mystery, full of historical details, that skilfully engages the reader.


New crime novel set in Sorrento

The Shooting in Sorrento by Val Culley

A new crime novel set against the beautiful backdrop of Sorrento is out now and available on Amazon Kindle or as a paperback. 

A Butler and Bartorelli mystery, The Shooting in Sorrento is the sequel to Death in the High City, which was set in Bergamo in Lombardy.

It will delight readers who know and love Sorrento as a lot of the action in the novel takes place in the ancient streets in the centre of the resort and at locations along the Sorrentine peninsula.

The main protagonist, journalist Kate Butler, is in Sorrento with her partner, Steve Bartorelli, a retired Detective Chief Inspector, to attend the wedding of the daughter of one of Steve’s Italian cousins.

The couple get to know an English family staying at their hotel in Capo di Sorrento and when tragedy strikes the family, Kate feels she should try to help them. She has already become friends with the mother, Janice, who is a woman of about her own age.

The beach of Marina di Puolo just outside Sorrento
Steve is distracted by meeting up with Italian relatives he has not seen since he was a child and is also wary of becoming too involved with the family because two of his cousins are senior officers in the Polizia di Stato.

But Kate is determined to get justice for her new English friends and joins forces with another visitor to Sorrento to investigate, when it seems the Italian police are focusing all their interest on the English family.

Her enquiries cause her to wander the narrow streets that run parallel to Corso Italia and take her down to the beach at Marina di Puolo, but she ends up putting herself in danger when her sleuthing gets her too close to the truth.

The Shooting in Sorrento is believed to be the first British crime novel set in Sorrento. It is available to buy in paperback or as a Kindle edition from Amazon.


Acqua Alta - crime novel by Donna Leon

A Commissario Brunetti novel by Donna Leon

This story featuring Commissario Brunetti made readers all over the world familiar with the Italian term for high tides in Venice.

Against the backdrop of a city under siege from acqua alta, literally high water, Brunetti sets out to investigate the savage attack on Brett Lynch, an American resident he got to know through one of his earlier cases.

The Commissario discovers that the victim, as well as being given a savage beating, had been threatened by her attackers and warned not to keep an appointment she had made with the director of the museum at the Doge’s Palace.

As Brunetti investigates further, he uncovers a web of smuggling, fraud and murder.

Meanwhile the rain continues to fall on an already flooded city, hampering his enquiries and adding to the tension.

One of Donna Leon’s most famous novels, Acqua Alta tells a gripping story and skilfully conveys the atmosphere of Venice in the grip of winter floods.

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(Image by Peggy Choucair from Pixabay)