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.


The Venetian Game

Intriguing mystery played out in a setting of which we never tire

As a Venice resident, Philip Gwynne Jones gives his character local knowledge
As a Venice resident, Philip Gwynne Jones
gives his character local knowledge
I was very excited when I rather belatedly discovered The Venetian Game, the first in a series of crime novels set in Venice written by Philip Gwynne Jones.

It was refreshing to read a mystery that has Venice as the backdrop and to have the city described from a new point of view. I have been an avid reader of Donna Leon’s Brunetti series over the years and Donna Leon is, of course, a famous ex-pat American resident of Venice. Philip Gwynne Jones, who was born in Swansea and grew up in south Wales, is now also lucky enough to be living there, working as a teacher, writer, and translator.

I’ve been visiting Venice regularly for more than 45 years and think I know the city well, but not in the same way that a local can know and portray it, of course. I enjoyed the author’s descriptions of squares and bridges as his viewpoint character, Nathan Sutherland, makes his way through the calli using routes to get to places that only a local would know, in the same way that Commissario Brunetti moves about in Donna Leon’s novels.

As a series character, I thought Nathan was very promising. He lives in an apartment on Via dei Assassini, where he makes a living as an English translator of DIY manuals. He also serves as the English Honorary Consul to Venice and does his best to help British tourists who get into difficulty while visiting La Serenissima.

This is an excellent device because it is entirely plausible that Nathan will have regular dealings with the police while trying to sort out people’s problems. It is also likely that he will have developed a friendship with an officer who he can call on for help when he is engaged in sleuthing.

Nathan is separated from his wife, who we eventually learn has left to take up a job in Scotland. He has an unfriendly cat called Gramsci, named after a former leader of the Italian Communist party, Antonio Gramsci, who stood up to Mussolini and was imprisoned by the Fascists for 20 years. To add further interest, Nathan also has an attractive Italian female friend, Federica, who is an art restorer.

The Venetian Game is the first of a series of detective novels
The Venetian Game is the first
of a series of detective novels
The mystery is set up at the beginning of the novel when a man in his sixties visits Nathan’s apartment and asks him to look after an item in his wall safe that is sealed in a padded envelope.  When Nathan tells him that won’t be possible without knowing what the package contains, the man offers to pay him ten thousand euros. When that doesn’t work, he threatens Nathan.

The package turns out to hold a valuable antique prayer book illustrated by an Italian master and Nathan eventually finds he has been drawn into a deadly game of art theft being played by two elderly brothers who live in a palace on the Grand Canal.

Nathan is terrorised at the top of a high building, beaten up and nearly drowned in a canal, and forced to flee his apartment, taking Gramsci with him, and make his escape by vaporetto, all because of the package.

I found myself wondering about Nathan at this point. Why doesn’t he take the package to the police and go and stay somewhere else for a while? What makes him want to put his life at risk to solve the mystery? Is it because he’s exceptionally brave, or has an insatiable curiosity, or is determined to see justice done?

The Venetian Game was first published in 2017. As I said earlier, I was a bit late discovering the series. I am looking forward to reading the sequel, Vengeance in Venice, which was published in 2018, to find out exactly what motivates Nathan.

Buy The Venetian Game from or


I Will Have Vengeance

A Commissario Ricciardi Mystery by Maurizio De Giovanni

The Naples waterfront in the 1930s, the era in which De Giovanni set his Commissario Ricciardi novels
The Naples waterfront in the 1930s, the era in which
De Giovanni set his Commissario Ricciardi novels
An intriguing detective story set in the dark days when Mussolini ruled Italy, I Will Have Vengeance is peopled by believable characters who live their lives in realistic settings.

But the novel is by a contemporary crime writer, Maurizio De Giovanni, and was published as recently as 2007.The setting is Naples in the year 1931 and De Giovanni manages to recreate the atmosphere of a city where poverty and wealth exist side by side with each other and officials are constantly looking over their shoulders in fear of Il Duce.

Much of the action takes place in Teatro di San Carlo, the city’s opera house. The story revolves around the world of opera, which De Giovanni obviously knows and understands well.

Commissario Luigi Alfredo Ricciardi, who is from a noble background, is sent to investigate a sudden death at the theatre. He is a loner and remains aloof from most of the other officers, but has the reputation of being a brilliant detective.

The big thing the reader has to get his head round is that this enigmatic police officer can see dead people. From being a child, he had been able to see the dead and it has set him apart from everyone else. As the author explains: ‘Not all of them and not for long: only those who had died violently, and only for a period of time that revealed extreme emotion, the sudden energy of their final thoughts.’

Maurizio De Giovanni wrote his first stories while working in a bank
Maurizio De Giovanni wrote his
first stories while working in a bank
But by the end of the book, I had come to terms with Ricciardi’s special gift, having become more interested in following the story and seeing how he solved the case.

The greatest tenor the world has ever known, Arnaldo Vezzi, has been found dead in his dressing room at Teatro di San Carlo. Ricciardi and his loyal deputy, Maione, are quickly on the scene and immediately clash with the director of the theatre when they insist on setting up a professional police investigation.

Vezzi was adored by millions, including Il Duce, but is hated by everyone in the theatre and in his personal life because of his arrogance and bad temper. Ricciardi’s boss, the Vice Questore, wants a quick result, even if it is not the right result, but Ricciardi insists on investigating thoroughly in order to bring the actual killer to justice. It is a compelling story and is told brilliantly by De Giovanni.

The setting of Naples in 1931 is very realistically portrayed because De Giovanni remembers his parents sharing their memories of the city before World War II with him.

De Giovanni was born in 1958 in Naples. He worked in a bank and wrote stories as a hobby. His colleagues at the bank decided to enter one of his stories in a writing competition for unpublished writers without his knowledge and his short story, I vivi e i morti – The Living and the Dead, set in the 1930s and featuring Commissario Ricciardi, won the competition. This inspired him to write his first novel, Le lacrime del pagliaccio – The Tears of the Clown - which was later republished in English as I Will Have Vengeance – The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi.

The Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, where much of the action in I Will Have Vengeance takes place
The Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, where much of
the action in I Will Have Vengeance takes place
He followed this with Blood Curse – The Springtime of Commissario Ricciardi in 2008, Everyone in Their Place – The Summer of Commissario Ricciardi in 2009 and The Day of the Dead – The Autumn of Commissario Ricciardi in 2010. To date he has written 13 Commissario Ricciardi novels.

The author has created two fictional detectives, Commissario Ricciardi, who works in 1930s Naples, and Ispettore Lojacono, who has been transferred to present day Naples from his home town of Agrigento in Sicily, after being accused of associating with the Mafia.

In 2012, De Giovanni ventured into the noir genre with The Crocodile, which featured the first appearance by Ispettore Lojacono.

He was then inspired by the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain to write a police procedural, The Bastards of Pizzofalcone. His five Pizzofalcone novels have now been made into a television series by RAI, starring Alessandro Gassmann as Ispettore Lojacono.

De Giovanni’s novels have now been translated into English, Spanish, Catalan, French and German and have sold well over a million copies throughout Europe.

Buy I Will Have Vengeance from or



The Potter’s Field

An Inspector Montalbano Mystery by Andrea Camilleri 

The fictional Montalbano's home is just a few yards from the sea on the Sicilian coast
The fictional Montalbano's home is just a few
yards from the sea on the Sicilian coast
As if investigating a suspected Mafia killing in atrocious weather isn’t difficult enough, Inspector Montalbano also finds himself having to solve the puzzle of the morose and quarrelsome behaviour of his friend and deputy, Mim
ì Augello, in this thirteenth novel in the police series set in Sicily.

After a terrifying dream in which the real-life Mafia boss, Totò Riina, has become prime minister and offers Montalbano the job of Minister of the Interior, the Inspector is woken by loud banging at his front door, where he finds one of his men, Catarella, who has come to his house to tell him about the discovery of a dead body. 

Under a relentless downpour, Montalbano and his men succeed in retrieving the body from where it has slid down a slope. It has been cut into pieces, put inside a bag and buried in a field of clay on the island, which is used by potters.

The Inspector has to find out the identity of the victim, why the body has been cut into 30 pieces and for what reason it has been left in The Potter’s Field. An added complication is a series of phone calls Montalbano receives from his long-distance girlfriend, Livia. Mimì’s wife, Beba, is in regular contact with Livia and has been telling her that Montalbano has been treating her husband very badly, requiring him to do regular all night stake outs, which is affecting their marriage.

Knowing there have been no recent all-night stake outs, the Inspector has no idea what is going on, but he allows Livia to believe that what she has been told is true to give him time to find out more about it. 

The Potter's Field is the 13th Montalbano novel
The Potter's Field is the 13th
Montalbano novel
He asks his Swedish friend, Ingrid, to follow Mimì to see where he goes at night, guessing he is probably seeing another woman. When Ingrid visits Montalbano’s apartment late at night to report back to him, the Inspector is terrified when the phone rings and it is Livia, who immediately senses someone is there with him.

The murder inquiry becomes more complicated when a beautiful South American woman comes to the police station to report that her husband is missing and Montalbano discovers that the man, a ship’s officer, just happens to be a distant relative of a local Mafia boss.

Discussing Mafia rituals with his officer, Fazio, leads to Montalbano recalling a passage from the Bible. He looks it up in the Gospel according to Matthew and reads the passage recounting the suicide of Judas, where he comes to the phrase ‘...the potter’s field to bury strangers in …’. 

Montalbano feels an actual shock go through his body as he finally has a clue about what lay behind the decision to cut the victim up in 30 pieces. 

But this time Montalbano not only has to solve a murder, he has to try to extricate Mimì from the trouble he is in. And he contrives to enable Mimì to take the credit for finding out who is responsible for the murder of the cut up body found in the potter’s field. 

It is a tall order, but Montalbano is cheered up by regularly eating at Enzo’s trattoria, where he consumes in just one of his meals whitebait, octopus, pasta with sea urchins and striped red mullet. 

He also finds the time to play a practical joke on his arch enemy, Pippo Ragonese, the top newsman at TeleVigàta

The Potter’s Field was first published in Italian as Il campo del vasaio in 2008. It was translated into English in 2011 by Stephen Sartarelli. I found it to be as ingenious as it was entertaining and would definitely recommend it.

You can buy The Potter's Field from or


The Raphael Affair

A crime mystery set in Rome served up with lashings of Italian culture

The Raphael Affair is the first of a series featuring Jonathan Argyll
The Raphael Affair is the first of
a series featuring Jonathan Argyll
This first novel of an Italian art history mystery series will delight many people who enjoy crime fiction with Italy as the backdrop.

Written by Iain Pears, an English art historian, novelist and journalist, The Raphael Affair introduces British art dealer Jonathan Argyll, who becomes a series character. He is brought to the attention of an Art Theft officer working for the Italian police, Flavia di Stefano, when he is caught breaking into a church in Rome.

A graduate student on holiday in Italy, Argyll had been arrested for vagrancy when he was found apparently trying to sleep in the church of Santa Barbara in the Campo dei Fiori.

When Flavia interviews him in English, she discovers that Argyll had gone to the church to examine a painting by Raphael that was hanging above the altar. He insists on making a full statement because he is convinced an enormous fraud has taken place.

He claims that the church contains a lost classic, hidden under another painting. When the picture vanishes, only to turn up in the hands of a British art dealer who claims it is a newly-discovered work by Raphael, his story gains some credibility.

Argyll and Flavia di Stefano join forces to find out whether the painting is a lost Raphael or not, but find themselves in danger when they come too close to discovering the truth.

Iain Pears has worked in Italy as a journalist
Iain Pears has worked in
Italy as a journalist
The Raphael Affair, which was first published in 1990, is a well-plotted story by Pears with sympathetic characters and its fair share of politics, corruption, suspense and sudden death. The outcome is surprising and sets up Argyll nicely to stay in Italy, see more of Flavia and appear in another novel.

Author Iain Pears was born in Coventry and educated at Oxford. He became a reporter for the BBC and then a correspondent for Reuters based in Italy, France and the US.

Following The Raphael Affair, Pears has published another six art mystery novels featuring art historian Jonathan Argyll. They are: The Titian Committee, The Bernini Bust, The Last Judgment, Giotto’s Hand, Death and Restoration and The Immaculate Deception.

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to read The Raphael Affair, but now I can’t wait to get started on The Titian Committee!  

The Raphael Affair is available from or