The Art of Killing Well Hardcover – 5 Jun 2014
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'Matthew Dennison's rich and compelling account challenges the accepted version of Augustus's wife as the viper in the nest... What emerges is a broader and thoroughly compelling account of the beginning of the Julio-Claudian dynasty as it seized and maintained power for itself and the empire. Dennison possesses the magical ability to make us see that the Romans were like us. They laughed at new money, sniggered over sexual misdemeanours, bore petty grudges. They had laws, baths, literature and a disciplined army. And yet they were almost unimaginably different. Dennison recreates ancient Rome and the mindset of its inhabitants as an alien world.
It is a city conveyed through the senses, beginning with a marvelous account of the birth of a child into an elite family against a background of smoke, sacrifice, and the melting wax of ancestral masks.' Financial Times.
'Chilling, claustrophobic' Irish Times. (Irish Times)
'Nerve-shatterlingly realistic ... This novel works as powerfully as Bernhard Schlink's The Reader as an extraordinary paradigm of the effects of war on the German psyche, and is as intense an experience' Jane Jakeman, Independent. (Independent)
'Nerve-shatteringly realistic ... Extraordinary' Independent. (Independent)
Pellegrino Artusi, Italy's first celebrity chef, turns detective to save the life of a Tuscan aristocrat and gastronome.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Marco Malvadi has very cleverly taken this historic fact and constructed a Poirotesque mystery starring Artusi. Artusi is invited to Baron Bonaiuti’s Tuscan villa for a weekend’s boar hunt and to check out the secrets of his kitchen. The Baron’s family and the other guests are an eclectic mix of the bizarre and the eccentric. The butler is murdered – but is he really the intended victim? Someone then tries to shoot the Baron, but who and why? There are any number of possible suspects – each with his/her own secrets and motivations…
The local village detective is baffled and, guess what, Artusi has to help him solve the mystery. This he does in painstaking style until all is revealed in a well contrived denouement.
‘The Art of Killing Well’ is a very well constructed read that, as mentioned, is reminiscent of Poirot in style. The characters, and the environment in which they exist, are both well drawn but of a very different age for the modern reader brought up on, for example, Swedish Noir – a quaint (but agreeable) throw-back in time. The forensics and science employed by Artusi are very advanced – but only for the age in which they exist yet they feel pretty primitive to the modern reader. It is interesting to see how much has changed…
The same quaintness applies to the larger than life characters Artusi encounters at the villa – from the two dysfunctional sons (one a poet of dubious ability, the other a philanderer…), through the maiden aunts, and through the staff, to the other guests. The descriptions are wittingly written and well observed – if a tad larger than life. Malvadi deserves much praise for his writing style (as does Howard Curtis for the translation).
A very nice final feature of the book is the inclusion in the final chapter of a number of Artusi’s recipes from his book. Most look extremely tempting!
A book that I much enjoyed and have chuckled over a few times in my head since completing it.
Artusi is one a group of guests staying with the seventh Barone di Roccapendente and his family in a remote castle for a weekend that promises much good food and a possible boar hunt. Malvaldi is very good at establishing the characters of the guests and those living in the castle above and below stairs but soon a body is found in a locked room, an event that rather disrupts the planned weekend. Readers familiar with the culinary delights in the series of books by Andrea Camilleri and Donna Leon featuring Inspector Montalbano and Commissario Guido Brunetti, respectively, will probably enjoy this book for its focus on food. Whether they will enjoy the rather skimpy plot is a rather moot point.
The translation by Howard Curtis beautifully captures the soufflé-like lightness of what is really a slight novella. The author obliquely captures the political and social changes that were sweeping through fin-de-siècle Italy. The omniscient narrative, which takes place over the weekend, is interrupted by excerpts from Artusi’s diary, written in the evening, in which he comments on the events of the day.
At the end of the book the author lists twelve recipes from Artusi’s collection, including one [‘Beans cooked like little birds’] sounding remarkably like baked beans. The small illustrations that pepper the book are quite in keeping with the period of the book.
The author’s whimsical style may be judged from this reference to the Barone’s daughter who, as a woman in the Italy of the time, ‘barely had a soul’ – ‘As an Italian woman, our Cecilia would have to wait another fifty-one years to vote, assuming she survived cholera outbreaks, two world wars and the three or four pregnancies which presumably awaited her. She could not vote, and she could not be elected. The only possibility she had to play an official public role would be someone tried to rape her, and failing to do so, killed her; in that case, very probably, she would have been made a saint by popular demand. As a career prospect, it must be that it had its limitations.’
Artusi, who happens to be reading a dog-eared copy of Sherlock Holmes, joins forces with the local policeman, Ispettore Artistico, who arrives to investigate the death. On the way to revealing the murderer the plot takes a number of gentle twists and turns, all basted in the author’s deliciously wry humour and sparkling asides. Much of the humour is at the expense of the stuffiness of the Barone and his idle family. Malvaldi knows his Agatha Christie [in a Note he admits that he first thought of an English setting] and cleverly offers a 21st-century perspective on a 19th-century mystery.
The author, a chemist, inserts some fascinating historical references on analytical chemistry. Interesting and enjoyable, but it left me wanting more. I will seek out Malvaldi’s earlier book, ‘Game for Five’, from his Bar Lume series.
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It’s 1895. The famous cookery writer, Pellegrino Artusi, has been invited to spend the weekend...Read more
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