I enjoyed the first of the Inspector Bordelli novels, not a lot but enough to give it a positive review. It is not neccessary to read these stories in the correct order.
This second outing has a different, much darker, feel to it reflected in the weather. The story is simpler and the solution seems to come in a rush, as it did in the first book, but the narrative flows well and the characters are well drawn. I have now learnt to enjoy the disconnected meanderings as whilst they are not part of the story they are appropriate to the background and enhance the experience of mid twentieth century Florence.
It was pleasing to find that the Inspector has a heart which is moved by the cases he deals with and by the beautiful women he comes across. I wonder why Rosa puts up with his moods though.
An enjoyable read.
This entertaining novel takes up where the previous installment, Death in August, left off. More murders are shocking the people of Florence and Bordelli, Piras and co are on the case. Like the earlier book this book is reminscent of British "Golden Age" detective novels in its style and pace, with Bordelli solving the case with lots of good food and grappa. Bordelli himself is still drinking and smoking far too much, and the subject of a serial killer of children makes it a rather darker novel than Death in August. Nevertheless, Bordelli gets it solved in the end and it's nice to catch up again with everyone from the first novel. It's not necessary to have read that first novel, however the solution is revealed to that book so it may be worth reading both in order. Despite being set in 1960s Florence, like the earlier book it could be set at any time and almost any place, with occasional mentions of the fine Tuscan city to enliven the story. A worthy successor to the first book, and I look forward to the third Bordelli novel.
Eight months have passed since the ending of Death in August. It is spring 1964. Florence is blanketed by the weather once more, but it is not the lethargic heat of late summer. It is the sharp, edgy remains of a winter that doesn't want to leave, covering the city in clouds and rain. The weather sets the mood for the action and Bordelli's reaction to it. There is a desperation in this book that wasn't as obvious in the previous one.
At the start, while it is not possible to say that Bordelli is in his comfort zone (I don't think they existed in 1964), he is getting on with life. Crime happens and he deals with it and all the petty inconveniences that go along with it. Occasionally he gets more fed up than usual and retreats into his memories of the war, especially to the time after the Armistice when he could, at last, fight the real enemy, the Nazis. (It is important to realise that it is less than twenty years since the end of the war.) When he and his men saw an atrocity, even if they could not prevent it, they could at least destroy the perpetrators.
Then two crimes occur: a child is murdered, heralding the start of a spate of child murders and a petty criminal, for whom Bordelli feels responsible, is killed. The child murderer leaves no clues and, powerless to prevent the next murder, Bordelli is paralysed by frustration and rage as public pressure builds on him to catch the murderer. He has more success tracing the killer of his friend, but again, as the spectre of the war rises once more, he is powerless to do anything about it, having to depend on others to deliver the goods.
Bordelli's friends are still there in the background, making sure he eats well and attempting to comfort him, but they are less successful than before. He can't sleep and becomes increasingly fraught. A miracle seems to occur fulfilling his desire for love. Does it bring him happiness?
This is a crime novel, but perhaps the older designation, detective story, is more apposite as it is as much about Bordelli, his life and friends as it is about the crimes and their solutions. What is important is Bordelli's reaction to his work. It is a much darker book than Death in August, but just as engaging, because one really cares about Bordelli and what happens to him.
Once more Stephen Sartarelli has provided us with a masterly translation.
The second book by this author.
This is my first experience of Marco Vichi, a young Italian talent and I was not disappointed. Set in Florence, Inspector Bordelli of the local police has to find a serial killer who has murdered four children and to top it all his dwarf friend Casimiro has also been brutally slain. One murderer or two?
I will not go into the plot and spoil it for any prospective reader, but it is a cracking good yarn. Most of it revolves around Bordelli who is a complex character, haunted by his past in the San Marco resistance who stood up to the Germans during the war. Haunted by these brutal crimes he cannot sleep and chain smokes his way through a difficult investigation in which we meet many interesting characters, most of whom have a tainted past.
A thoroughly enjoyable read which I found difficult to put down. My only complaint was that I solved the plot early in the book which is rather frustrating, and accounts for 4 rather than 5 stars. This did not stop me from reading through to the end, however. I have also placed an order for Mr Vichi's first book, "Death in August".
Very promising series.
Having really enjoyed the first Inspector Bordelli novel Death in August (Inspector Bordelli), I was really looking forward to the second in the series, and it didn't disappoint. The novel is set in Florence, 1964, and concerns two different storylines.
The first involves Casimiro, who Bordelli knew at the end of the war. He tells Bordelli he has tripped over a body, but when the Inspector accompanies him to the scene, there is a bottle of cognac on the ground, but no corpse. Suddenly, they are attacked by a guard dog, which has probably come from a nearby villa. Intrigued, Bordelli returns later to find the dog he killed has also vanished and sees someone look over the wall of the villa, which he discovers belongs to the Baron Von Hauser, currently not in residence. Casimiro insists on playing at being a detective and, when he is later found dead, Bordelli is determined he should have vengeance. The second storyline involves the emotive murders of little girls, each found strangled with a bite mark on their belly. Bordelli is under pressure to solve the murders and they haunt him, as he feels he is getting nowhere.
A large part of the Bordelli series involves the characters involved in these novels. The Inspector is a man who is haunted by his past and these cases are both linked to the war he fought in against the Germans. The book involves Nazi's who have fled justice, the Jewish victims who pursue them and the interesting themes of justice and vengeance. Because something links both the murdered girls and past sins are causing present crimes. I really enjoyed this novel and I will certainly be keen to follow Inspector Bordelli if further books in the series are translated - let's hope we don't have to wait too long for them.
Poor old Florence has seen its days peppered with death probably since the first olive trees began to sprout and in 1964, it seems its procession of dead bodies continues unabated.
Bordelli is one of those Italian detectives I really like. He's not heavy on the brutality, he likes his grappa (and his cognac and his red wine and his beer) and spends most of his non-detecting time in the kitchen of his favourite restaurant where, thank goodness for spaghetti, he feasts endlessly.
Coincidentally, I spent a lot of time in and around Florence in the sixties and indeed, mishandled a VW Beetle for my pains. Marco Vichi reminded me of those days with his atmospheric detailing of the place and its environs.
Of course, not much detective work goes on this book. It's more a commentary on social life of the day. There's an easy-going formula within the novel despite the gruesome nature of the murders.
Even so, I found myself turning the pages, enjoying the moment and not really caring who committed the murders. Actually, it's fairly plain who did but this doesn't matter because Inspector Bordelli doesn't quite get it until it's almost too late. He then struggles to come to terms with the outcome of a secondary storyline, the hunt for escaped Nazis sentenced to death at Nuremburg but who quietly vanished until here we are back in the grip of Florence and its propensity for death.
As with many similar books, though not necessarily in Italy, Bordelli is his own man. There's the usual mix of simple Italian police men who appear devoted to him, notwithstanding his sometimes extraordinary bouts of non-stop smoking and then there's the love interest which is hardly interesting and is certainly not love though poor old Bordelli would like to think it could be.
Anyway, I liked this book and I shall certainly read book 3 just to see if Bordelli develops lung cancer or dies of a non-functioning liver - oh and, of course, to see if he can crack another murder case eventually.
Inspector Bordelli is a decent, if slightly self-absorbed, man, living in Florence in the early 60s, driving a VW Beetle, and eating good food. What's not to like? He also drinks vast quantities of alcohol (seriously vast actually - a game of "drink along with Bordelli" would have you in hospital before you got the end of the book).
The story is interesting, although the crime and plotting of the investigation is secondary to Bordelli's personal life and history (there are regular flash-backs to his time during the war). Also, you need to know that this book is centred around a series of child murders - as the father of an eight year old girl, that's not a topic that I would choose to read about for enjoyment and I suspect your ability to enjoy this book will depend upon your ability to divorce fiction from reality. Having said that, most of us who read crime fiction must be pretty good at that (either that or we're all sick!) and the book never concentrates with the physical details and reality of the crime in a way some do.
Finally, I wonder if real life Italian police inspectors get to have affairs with as many beautiful young women as their fictional counterparts do? Apart from Brunetti (interestingly, written by a woman) every one I can think of regularly finds gorgeous young women throwing themselves at them. Apart from Montalbano, they usually seem to succumb as well!
But, all in all, a perfectly enjoyable read.
on 6 December 2011
This novel is set in 1964, and memories of the war loom large in the plot. Inspector Bordelli is in his fifties, unmarried, and practically pickled in alcohol (what he eats and drinks throughout the story is lovingly detailed). A small girl is found murdered, and then another. A dwarf, Casimiro, thinks he has found a body and calls Bordelli out to a grim country house to find the 'body' gone. A little later Casimiro himself is murdered. Bordelli, with his somewhat reluctant assistant Piras, starts out to solve the crimes, although not before more children are killed.
A link to WW2 produces many memories in the Inspector as he works, and eventually he finds out the who, and the why, and the sadness behind it all.
Spring is late in 1964 Florence, and one of the abiding memories I have of this story, apart from the booze, is the rain.
I enjoyed the story; one of several I've read lately about Italy and crimes arising from WW2. Interesting trend.
There is a previous Inspector Bordelli story and I'm looking forward to reading it too.
Yes I know I have a gazillion books to read and review, but couldn't resist reading this, having thoroughly enjoyed Vichi's debut `Death In August' featuring the wonderfully curmudgeonly Inspector Bordelli and I'm pleased to say that this is the equal of, or indeed even better, than the first book. Set in 1960`s Florence, Vichi once again renders the location and atmosphere of Italy in this period perfectly, with an astute eye on the socio-political backdrop and the lasting shadows cast by Italy's involvement in World War II, whilst neatly balancing a multi-layered plot of murder and retribution.
The pervasive nature of war is most cleverly portrayed by the flashbacks of Bordelli's own experiences as a member of the San Marco resistance, and throughout the story there are perfectly placed vignettes of his, by turns, harrowing and life affirming, experiences during his service which have shaped to a large degree his sense of morality, tempered by a cynical attitude to the failings of his fellow man. Bordelli is not only seen as a dedicated police officer, but as a man determined to right what he sees as perceived wrongs, equally at home in the presence of his colleagues and members of the criminal classes and always prepared to defend the honour of both. In this multi-layered story, this becomes most evident in his investigation of the murder of Casimiro, a shady informant, but nevertheless a friend of Bordelli, which cleverly incorporates the activities of the White Dove, a post-war organisation investigating the whereabouts of Nazis who have escaped the punishments handed down by the Nuremburg trials. Bordelli finds himself at odds with the White Dove, despite his sympathies, to gain justice for the murder of his friend. Running alongside this arc of the story is Bordelli's hunt for a child killer with a unique and macabre signature, which again reflects the theme of the inescapable shadows of war and proves to be an extremely testing case for our erstwhile hero.
Not only is the plotting razor sharp, but Vichi's grasp of characterisation is excellent, evident throughout the book as he brings into sharp focus, Bordelli's complicated relationships and his interaction with his colleagues. As in common in most crime books, Bordelli has little respect for his superiors and forges his own path throughout, aided and abetted by his relationship with the prickly pathologist, Dr Diotivede, and his police partner, Piras. His relationship with his surly Sardinian sidekick, Piras, is a joy, tempered by humour and pathos, and reveals itself as a touching, almost father/son relationship, during the course of the investigation. Bordelli, also has an interesting relationship with Rosa, the epitome of the `tart with a heart' who acts as a sounding board and source of emotional comfort to the beleagured Inspector in his darkest hours, whilst he also embarks on an ill-fated affair with a beauty less than half his age, which brings another facet to his character, and his all too human weakness for the attentions of a pretty girl.
In the course of his books, Vichi has established himself as a joy to me personally, as both a reader and a bookseller, as I love the supremely controlled grasp he has on both the narrative form and his adept characterisation, and how easy it is to recommend his books to those who love Italian crime fiction. Vichi has created a central character the equal of the compelling Inspector Montalbano, and I'm sure there is much to be gained by fans of Camilleri, and other established Italian crime fiction writers in seeking out the excellent Vichi, if you haven't already had the pleasure...
The main protagonist in `Death and the Olive Grove' is a somewhat stereotyped fictional cop, Inspector Bordelli, who has little respect for his superior, he links informally with colleagues, he maintains a friendship with minor criminals, and he is in a relationship with an ex prostitute. The setting is Florence, Italy which is author Marco Vichi's home town and he certainly knows the geography, yet directions, street names etc. will be meaningless to most readers. The time is 1964 and flashbacks experienced by Bordelli show he has clearly been influenced by his horrific war service, and he follows his own principles of justice rather than the letter of the law. Bordelli is incensed by the disappearance of a friend and by macabre killings of young girls.
All seems in place for an intriguing story but for a detective novel most of the narrative meanders without much investigative success until very near the end. Apart from minimum of observation and interrogation the sort of analytical deduction starting with Edgar Allen Poe's `The Murders of the Rue Morgue' and taken up by Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie etc. are absent. `Death and the Olive Grove' is written as a single chapter within which a number of superfluous characters interrupt the flow of the narrative, and though the author seeks to interweave sub-plots these remain singular until the denouement attempts to tie up loose ends. Bordelli is an interesting character and the story of `Death and the Olive Grove' is quite engaging, but for me it lacks suspense leading to a climax, and therefore it is not a riveting read - average - and hence 3-star rating. But don't be put off - fans of the detective genre should find Marco Vichi's novel a simple, straightforward and satisfying read.