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, January 31, 2021

Medusa

 

An Aurelio Zen Mystery by Michael Dibdin

Once again Detective Aurelio Zen finds himself with an awkward case to investigate that could have serious political implications.

Lake Lugano is one of the locations to which Zen's inquiries lead in Medusa
Lake Lugano is one of the locations to which
Zen's inquiries lead in Medusa
Austrian cavers exploring abandoned military tunnels in the Italian alps have discovered the body of a man at the bottom of a deep shaft.

Zen is asked to look into the case even though it has been assumed the death was accidental.

But then the body is stolen from the morgue and the Defence Ministry puts a news blackout on the case.

Zen has already been to see the cave and been given photographs of the body by the cavers.

But his superior, Brugnoli, summons him back to Rome and arranges to meet him secretly in a park to discuss the delicate political nuances.

The official line is that the body is that of a soldier who was accidentally killed during a training exercise many years ago. The defence ministry say he was a member of an elite special force modelled on the British SAS that never existed officially and therefore secrecy about the discovery has to be maintained.

Brugnoli tells him that because of the delicate state of the current political situation in Italy there is a lot at stake both for his department and the future of the country but that a skilled operator such as Zen might be able to turn up some interesting material that could be useful.

He says that ideally he wants a huge scandal that will be front page news and implicate the entire defence ministry, but that he will settle for anything that can be used against them.

Zen is to work on the case on his own and not to communicate with him overtly, but to arrange another clandestine meeting with him if necessary.

Zen’s enquiries take him to Milan, the Po Valley and Lake Lugano on the border between Italy and Switzerland. He has to operate unofficially and work round the clock but he manages to find out why the dead man was killed and by whom and achieves justice for the victim. With the help of a veteran journalist he goes to visit, he even manages to get the optimum result his superior has asked for.

Brilliantly plotted and beautifully written, I think that Medusa is one of Michael Dibdin’s finest novels and well worth reading.

I agree with one of the reviews on the back cover that says: ‘Dibdin’s Medusa is just as good as an Italian holiday.’

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(Lake Lugano picture by Jonathan Reichel via Pixabay)


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Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Wings of the Spinx

An Inspector Montalbano Mystery by Andrea Camilleri

 

Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano stories are set in southeast Sicily
Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano stories are
set in southeast Sicily 
Inspector Montalbano is called in to investigate after the naked body of a young woman is found in a rubbish dump on his territory. She has been shot in the face and is unrecognisable, but there is a tattoo of a sphinx moth on her left shoulder.

Montalbano is struggling with his feelings about getting older and anxious that his long distance, but long lasting relationship with his girlfriend, Livia, is in trouble.

But he sets out to try to establish the victim’s identity, with the help of Mimi Augello, his deputy, and his loyal and hard working officer, Fazio.

The inspector soon discovers that there are three other young women in the area with the same tattoo on their left shoulders but they can’t help him identify the dead woman as they are all missing.

When his enquiries lead him to interview a Monsignor, the head of a religious charity, who says they rescued the girls from sex traffickers, the Inspector suddenly smells a huge rat.

But he is hampered in his work when he is hauled up before his boss, the Commissioner, who is angry that his questions have offended the Monsignor.

He is also under time pressure because he has promised to free himself from work to be able to spend some meaningful time with Livia.

It doesn’t help his mood that the weather is so bad the fishermen can’t go out to sea and day after day there is no fresh fish on the menu at Enzo’s Trattoria.

But Montalbano has to keep going, to get justice for the dead girl and to be able to free himself of the case to concentrate on his relationship with Livia.

He has just unmasked the killer and is on the way to the airport to meet Livia when someone else involved in the case is shot in the face.

He has to race against time to tie up the loose ends so he can hand the case over to the chief of the Flying Squad but still get the resolution he wants to achieve. There are many twists and turns and the suspense is maintained until he finally boards a plane to Genoa in his desperate pursuit of Livia to try to save their relationship.

But when he arrives at Livia’s apartment in Boccadasse, a village just outside Genoa, Montalbano gets a big surprise…

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More Montalbano stories reviewed:

August Heat

The Patience of the Spider

Rounding the Mark

More reading:

Andrea Camilleri profile and full list of Montalbano titles


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Saturday, January 2, 2021

The Marshal’s Own Case

A Marshal Guarnaccia Investigation by Magdalen Nabb
 

Marshall Guarnaccia investigates grisly goings-on after dark in Florence
Marshall Guarnaccia investigates grisly
goings-on after dark in Florence
Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia’s superior officer in the Carabinieri, Captain Maestrangelo, puts him in charge of a murder case after a chopped up body is found in plastic bags on his territory.

It takes the Marshal away from his familiar world in the Carabinieri station at the Pitti Palace and plunges him into the nocturnal world of the transgender prostitutes operating in Florence.

For despite having breasts, the body which has been neatly sawn into pieces and dispersed between a number of plastic bags, turns out to be that of a man not a woman.

Despite observing that the Marshal never has much to say for himself, the Captain rates his ability and knows that the Marshal doesn’t miss much, as evidenced by his previous successes.

But the Marshal has to learn quickly, in order to operate within a community he has no experience of, and which seems a long way from the daily difficulties of tourists and their lost property and passports that he is used to.

He is dismayed when the Captain hands him a pile of files relating to previous murders of prostitutes and their clients in Florence, all of which are marked Unsolved.

Magdalen Nabb set 14
crime novels in Florence
But the Captain does assign to him one of his own men, Ferrini, a friendly and talkative officer, who knows his way around in the shadowy world of transgender prostitution.

Guarnaccia quickly develops some sympathy for the tragic men, who have had surgery and been given hormone treatments to make them look like women, so that they can satisfy the desires of their regular clients, who are usually seemingly respectable men living in Florence.

When Peppina, one of the transgender prostitutes, is arrested and locked in a cell, suspected of the murder of what turns out to be Lulu, one of her rivals, Guarnaccia believes she is not guilty of the crime.

He is so sure of Peppina’s innocence, despite the evidence against her, he insists on continuing his inquiries, even though he is urged to drop the investigation because the Prosecutor has said he is satisfied with the result.

Against a backdrop of other problems, with one of his two young sons not doing well at school and getting into trouble, and his wife urging him to look for the missing son of an acquaintance from back home in Sicily, he keeps going out at night in terrible weather to try to solve the crime to his own satisfaction.

His patience and tenacity pays off and he catches the real killer, strives to get the most lenient sentence for Peppina for other charges she is facing, and can then finally turn his attention to his own, troubled young son.

This is another compelling mystery by Magdalen Nabb, which exposes a shadowy part of life going on at night in the beautiful, historic city of Florence. 

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